The Manager – Leadership
Few principal or general managers of progressive businesses have much time to devote to matters of daily routine, beyond receiving reports from heads of departments, and necessary consultations. When the various departmental divisions and staff arrangements are settled with proper division of responsibility and an intelligent routine established, and in addition a general system of control instituted, the principal or manager is free to devote himself to his proper function to frame policies, to lead, and to explore new avenues of progress.
This does not mean that he renounces all concern with automatic routine. If the organization is good and his report system intelligent, facts, figures and reports will keep him sensitive to slackness here, and to weakness there. The percentage of efficiency in every concern tends to get lower where there is not periodical investigation and adjustment. No routine is sacred; no methods remain permanently the best. The business machine, like the human machine, tends to run down, or, at least, it changes with passing years. Gradual changes for the worse have to be carefully scrutinized. The horse carriage builder of yesterday becomes the motor car manufacturer of to-day. This, along with leadership, is the most vital function of a commercial manager.
The control of the Sales side of the business, the control of Buying, the control of Expenditure, the control of Finance, are subjects that require constant attention. They are intimately related, and we may consider them all generally, for the moment, under the heading of Finance. No one man can control all the many operations of a big business without an efficient body of sub-managers behind him, who should be given as free a hand as possible; but control of some kind over these lieutenants must be exercised. There are many things that cannot be delegated to departmental managers, and there must be co-ordination. There can be no water-tight compartments.
The prerogative of a General Manager is to have possession of all the vital facts concerning the business. In all consultations, or conferences, or meetings of a Board of Directors, one thing is important a comprehension of all the relative facts of the matter under discussion. If the various members of a Board of Directors had all the facts of a matter before them, they would probably come to a like decision if not, they would know on what particular they differed.
The mind of the commercial manager should not be rigid, but elastic. He should be capable of taking long views and have a wide outlook; sympathetic, yet critical; not afraid to yield a point to the keen enthusiast. He will not be afraid to trust his own judgment when confronted with new ideas, if he has experience and knowledge at his back.
The sanely optimistic man is also an asset to any staff. He is as invigorating as a breath of fresh air. The genial and optimistic frame of mind helps things forward; it creates atmosphere. The person given to doubting and hedging is the one likely to be beaten; he is half-beaten at the outset; whereas the one with the confident idea he is going to win is likely to win; at any rate, he has the frame of mind calculated to win. His own optimism acts as a spur to himself and others. Some people are naturally optimistic, but others are not. But optimism is a point of view which can be cultivated, just as cheerfulness can. About the foolishly optimistic ones we need say nothing. They are easily detected by their own beacon light of warning.