Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk posted a video today from Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay to Be the Boss. Tulgan thinks there’s an epidemic of undermanagement in business, that “leaders, managers, and supervisors are not leading, managing, and supervising.” He proposes that it’s better to be hands on than hands off if you’re a manager and says that “if you’re the boss, people are counting on you.”
Books like The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations promote the idea that decentralized loosely-managed organizations can be more successful than hierarchical traditionally managed organizations. Starfish organizations, so the claim goes, work mainly via flat and collaborative peer networks, not by the practice of top-down leadership or management. This might make you think that management isn’t necessary in the new world of work and business enabled by the web. Yet even so-called starfish organizations like Wikipedia and Craigslist rely on some sort of governance structure and effective leadership to succeed.
Anyone who watches The Apprentice regularly sees how project teams yearn for strong managers at the same time they revolt against domineering personalities. Leading and managing effectively requires talents that few of us seem naturally blessed with. There are so many ways to be a bad boss, it’s no wonder many workers resonate with Dilbertian anti-management thinking.
I’ve been undermanaged and overmanaged and I’ve done my part to add to the dysfunction by under- and overmanaging. I prefer being undermanaged, because I’m an independent and stubborn sort who likes to do things her own way. Yet a thoroughgoing lack of goals and structure to meet them causes stress for everyone.
Are you suffering from undermanagement, like Tulgan suggests? Or do you wish your micromanaging boss would get off your back? If you’re a manager, do you struggle to find a balance between not enough and too much management, supervision, and leadership?