Sunday, March 9, 2008

Management Archetypes

Over the course of my young career as a programmer in the dynamic field of healthcare IT, I've been exposed to many, many managers and executives, both those that have managed myself, and those that have managed my colleagues and friends. Lately, I've been trying to think of ways to classify my experiences into a few brief stereotypes.

The Shogun: This stereotype leads from behind the scenes, as if playing a game of chess. This is good in that running a moderate to large organization is a nightmare of taskings to keep track of, contracts to manage, fires to put out, and work to chase, so secluding yourself in a castle and letting your sargeants handle the day to day issues allows you time to be a forward thinker. However, this is bad in that your soldiers are not loyal to you, since they never see the shogun. Instead, they are loyal to the sargeants who have lead them through the trenches. Paying your soldiers well helps, but ultimately human beings are social animals, and by removing yourself from the social circle, you are removing yourself from one of the most effective ways to command loyalty.

Alexander the Great: This stereotype leads from the front lines, and is often times the first into battle. Alexander the Great fought where his soldiers fought, slept in the dirt, and ate what his soldiers ate. His soldiers followed him to the end of the known world, and together they created one of the greatest empires in human history. This is good in that your soldiers love you, and will stick with you in thick and thin, through good pay and bad, crap work and good work. Being an Alexander the Great is bad in that you are just one person, and there are only 24 hours in a day. By spending so much time in the trenches, there is a tendency to neglect the day to day running of your organization, and often your next in commands have to pick up the pieces left in your wake. So while your soldiers love you, your generals may resent you for shunting so much work onto their shoulders.

These are my thoughts so far. And if any of my current or former managers happens to read this, my comments are not about any one person in particular. Rather, this is a combination of all the managers I have known in my life, and indeed I included what I think I would be like as a manager. For the record, I think I would be more of an Alexander the Great (obviously you can tell that my comments above are biased towards Alexander =P).

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