I was talking over coffee yesterday with a lawyer who had a background in the corporate world in a previous life. Somehow we got to talking about Steve Jobs at Apple, and his style of “managing by walking around, and scaring people”. The first half of that, MBWA, is a recognised style, and tends to make the manager more observant as well as less aloof and more approachable. The “scaring people” part will not be found in any modern management textbook.
The other man to spring to mind is Gordon Ramsay. He has to some extend developed a sweary persona for the TV cameras, but he takes no prisoners in the kitchen. Again, this is not a recommended management style.
Yet both inspire loyalty, and both are successful. This is particularly so with Jobs, given the size of Apple. And when he left the company, and it was run by a corporate manager, it went downhill and he had to come back to rescue it. Meanwhile, he had made a success of Pixar.
Why can this approach work? Firstly, a manager is there to get things done, not to be anybody’s best mate. Secondly, both men gain respect for their knowledge of the core of the business – their authority does not just come from the positions they hold. Thirdly, the business is their own baby, and their approach reflects their ownership of, and passion for, it. Lastly, they appear not to pick on individuals, and are set off by things being less than perfect. And they do not bear grudges.
While “firm but fair” is generally a good approach, please do not go into the office tomorrow and start swearing at your staff and colleagues. It only makes work for lawyers……..