The top ten 10 management myths

The world of management is blighted by fads, fiction and falsehoods. Stefan Stern, author of Myths of Management, sets things straight.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 29 May 2019
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Down to business

1. There is one right way to lead or manage

Don’t fall for the zealots who claim to have cracked the 'one right way'. Situations change, and businesses are all different. You have to judge the situation and adapt your behaviour accordingly.

2. The robots are coming to take your jobs

The predictions sound scary – 25 per cent of jobs! No, it’s 45 per cent! But everyone is guessing, really. We have always adapted to the arrival of new technology and we will again. We need more robots, not fewer. We will work with them, not be beaten by them. 

3. Leadership is more important than management

The leadership industry talks a good (and expensive) game but work is about completing tasks, getting things done. That’s what managers do. The distinction that is drawn between leadership and management is overdone. We need both, and bosses need to be able to do both.

4. Be yourself – it’s all about authenticity

When you step up to a new role just being yourself may not be enough. You have to grow and improve. 'Authenticity' could be an excuse for laziness. Don’t be a phoney but don’t limit yourself to one limited way of operating.

5. People hate change

Bought any new clothes recently, or a new car, or moved house? People can cope with change. They may even like it. What people don’t like is unnecessary or stupid change, imposed from above. Involve people in change and they may be quite happy about it.

6. Big data will fix everything

Numbers do not tell the whole story. Judgment is needed too. And no boss can get hold of 'perfect information' fast enough. So don’t hide behind data. If you torture it for long enough it will confess to anything.

7. The boss with the best strategy wins

Big ideas are fine. But someone has to put them into practice. A business with an average strategy that does things really well beat a competitor with a clever strategy but which cannot 'execute'. Just get on and do things well (that’s quite a good strategy).

8. It’s tough at the top

Bosses have more autonomy, much better pay, drivers, PAs, business class (or first class) travel, nice hotels to stay in, and deference from colleagues. This is not a tough existence. It’s much tougher lower down, and bosses should never forget that. 

9. Leaders are born not made

Everyone can better at leading and managing. Beware 'natural' leaders who think they have little or nothing to learn. We are all a work in progress. Leaders are usually made, by experience, and not born ready to lead.

10. Annual appraisals help you manage performance

Management should be an ongoing (if interrupted) conversation, not an annual punch-up and recrimination session. Don’t wait all year saving up resentment. Drop the appraisals and talk normally to each other.

Myths of Management – what people get wrong about being the boss, by Stefan Stern and Cary Cooper is published by Kogan Page, £14.99

This piece was originally published in October 2017.


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