The Powerful Manager – Dangers and Opportunities

“The more powerful the manager, the less likely he or she was to take advice.”

That’s what the researchers say in “Kidding Ourselves”, the latest book from Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Hallinan.

They also say that “power tends to diminish perception and perspective…”. In other words, it narrows the scope and the focus of a manager with a powerful position.

Although this sounds like it could be a recipe for trouble as managers gain more “position power” with each promotion, there is an opportunity here.

Before moving to the opportunity, it helps to understand cause. Why does a manager’s perception and perspective diminish as power increases?

The real cause is ego.

In other words, using the ‘position’ and the promotion to inflate the sense of self and self-importance.

Here are some examples of the conversations that can easily go on in a manager’s head after one or more promotions.

“I must be right. That’s why they promoted me.”

“This position is supposed to have the answers so this is my answer.”

“I don’t have experience with what they are suggesting. I do have experience with what I am suggesting. My way is safer for me. And, they need to listen to me anyway because I’m their manager.”

This kind of “self-talk” is one reason for the often heard cliché, “The boss is not always right but the boss is always the boss.”

And, it’s why so many managers can easily fall into the trap of having a narrower scope as well as a diminished perspective and perception about what’s actually going on.

So, if you are manager and you want to stay open to advice and broaden your perspective, all you have to do is realize that a promotion doesn’t make you “more right”, you don’t suddenly have all the answers, and your point of view based on your experience (even though valid) might only be one way of looking at the situation.

That’s why it’s always worth getting better at more consciously managing our ego which encourages us to be receptive to helpful advice and a potentially more objective and advantageous outcome.