TBM 22/52: The Perfect Manager/Leader
Short post today.
I really worry sometimes about (some) people in tech.
I see people putting themselves under so much pressure to be the perfect manager or leader.
They nobly shield their team from dysfunction. They attempt superhuman feats of managing up. They filter every word—juggling the dual demands of caring for their teams, and doing the company’s bidding. They bottle their emotions to keep a veneer of being professional. They try to be the best coaches and mentors they can be.
Empathy. Presence. Charisma. Gravitas. Serving. Caring. Acts of vulnerability. The patience of an ox, and the fire of a lion. The Will to Lead.
They try to do it all because they believe that other people have figured out how to do it all. That “it is supposed to be hard”. That they “signed up for the job”. That “this is the leader’s burden”. That “you can build grit” and “the buck always stops with you”. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”
In a discussion about stress on managers, someone wrote recently:
“If someone cannot shield their direct reports from BS above them, or they cannot manage up for the wellbeing of their team they shouldn’t be a manager.”
And it hit me.
Really? Why is BS the norm?
What are we doing to people?
I meet with lots of companies. And I can say this. It is absolutely possible to have a healthy company. Not perfect, and not without the occasional acute issue, but mostly healthy. Some people/teams actually have FUN at work. It is joyful, not institutionalized professional masochism. People laugh. Most weeks go by without a clusterfuck. Most weeks go by without mind-numbing incoherence.
There’s no requirement for managers and leaders to absorb the full weight of the world.
But in other companies, it really feels like people NEED the chaos to feel helpful. That unless people are pushing to their absolute limit, something must be wrong.
I just don’t buy into this. I actually think teams do better work when things are fun, and (mostly) healthy. It IS possible.
What do you think?
Or perhaps another question: how do we encourage more sanity and self-care?