The WYSIWYG of Modern Management

Management Balancing ActBeing an effective manager doesn’t necessarily mean you’re also a good leader. How do you think you would measure up as a leader?

Many people, especially those within HR and Training organisations and departments, believe that managers can be trained  and groomed to become future leaders. To my view and from personal experience, this is only partly correct.

Leadership is about so much more than being a good manager. Effective management is, to a certain extent, a mechanical process where as leadership, requires higher levels of human ‘software’ skills.

Productive and effective management skills are not an innate quality; Leadership is a crucial attribute that many managers lack despite their job title…(Profiles International)

Despite a myriad of books being published on the subject of ‘leadership charisma‘, if you don’t naturally possess the human ‘soft’ skills naturally, no amount of training is likely to instill them. The possession of inherent personal traits, as opposed to just learned ‘skills’ are of paramount importance.

As most people will know, WYSIWYG is the acronym for What You See Is What You Get. It’s mostly used in computing but in particular, when referring to the manipulation of text and graphics in desktop publishing and web design. It implies a user interface that allows the user to view something very similar to the end result. It’s also an acronym which I tend to apply to life in general.

WYSIWYG actually describes the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs but to my mind, the term also fits succinctly into leadership and management. For the purposes of this article, WYSIWYG relates to the interface between employees and their managers and leaders. In particular, as a descriptive for personal perceptions of individuals carrying out those leadership and managerial roles.

…according to Hay Group’s study, almost half of employees (47 per cent) do not believe that their leaders deliver on promises…(read more)

It is apparent from recent research, that many employees see their managers more as machines, rather than human beings. This particular piece of research related to the public sector however, I’m sure those thoughts and feelings won’t be exclusive to that sector alone.

Recently the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) carried out research which found that “a fifth of UK workers are looking to move jobs in 2014, with surprising numbers aiming to leave because they don’t feel valued” (see here). We should be worried that “70% say morale is at an all-time low and 43% want to leave” don’t you think?

Does the public sector have a morale crisis? With cuts continuing in the public sector, it’s been too much stick and not enough carrot for public sector staff…(ILM: Nick Martindale)

There are many underlying factors impacting upon a decline in morale, not least the current economic climate, austerity measures are forcing cutbacks and the failing personal pride of employees working within the sector. The loss of faith in leadership has contributed substantially to the morale crisis that is now evident within the public sector.

Within the context of the new economic reality, leaders urgently need to reinvigorate employees’ enthusiasm and reconnect them with a clear organisational purpose and vision…(John Howarth)

Promotion LadderAs I’ve said before we tend to get the leaders we deserve, it has a lot to do with the way in which we train and evaluate our leaders (see here). I speak from my experience within a particular sector however, I have no reason to think others show any significant difference (see here).

From my working life experience there seems to be far too much emphasis placed on the individual (see here). That and their bean counting managerial ‘skills’ as they climb the leadership ladder. The needs of organisation and the individuals within its workforce mostly take a secondary place and are given lip service. It’s having a resounding but negative impact in many areas of service delivery, particularly within the public sector.

Throughout my thirty years experience of working within the public sector, I can count on one hand the number of inspirational leaders I have been prepared to follow happily.

manager-arrowYes leaders are required to provide direction and think strategically but never at the expense of the organisation’s service delivery. Leadership shouldn’t mean getting to the top on the backs of others, or by self-promotion of self-importance and self-worth.

This blog is littered with references to evidence the wrong kind of leadership or management (see here) and systemic failure (see here) in public sector organisations..

We all know that ‘effective’ management can be a fine balancing act but how do you measure up in the leadership stakes within your organisation?

manager-jigsawGiven the distinct differences in skill sets and personal traits, I believe the time has come for a massive rethink on how we select and train our leadership, particularly within the public sector. Perhaps we should turn the current thinking about leadership selection on its head?

A selection process based upon genuine experience (i.e. ‘significant’ time served) in roles that candidates are required to lead would be a start. Add to that some form of tripartite peer group recommendation process; one where candidates are assessed not only by their supervisors but also, their peers and those they are responsible for supervising. There must be some better way to get he leadership we deserve?

The whole organisational raison d’être is and must always be one of service to our society and not self-service. Any leader is only one small piece in that process, all be it an important one. In the overall jigsaw that is public service delivery every piece is required to complete the picture. That said, you can still gain a perfectly adequate vision of that picture, even when one piece is missing.

Police officers, Fire Fighters, Paramedics, Nurses and Doctors, along with the vast majority of those involved in delivering public services will always continue to do so. It is what they do and usually to a very high standard. The front end of ‘delivery’ is mostly a constant, one that rarely alters significantly… Apart from political impositions and the negative impacts of ineptitude in management and leadership.

If leaders fail to take action, they risk losing their most capable staff. And where talent goes, pride, morale and productivity are sure to follow…(John Howarth. Associate Director – Hay Group)

Until leaders within the sector fully understand this fact, and work solely towards providing high levels of effective quality service to the public, sometimes to their own personal disadvantage, they are failing both their organisations and our society as a whole.


There have been numerous calls over recent years to trim back the administration, management and bureaucracy involved within UK policing and to an extent, the greater public sector.

During the last thirty plus years that I’m aware of, our police service (like much of the public sector) has seen an exponential growth in the number of  ‘managers’ and consequently, an increase in bureaucratic functions. A level of growth that even Charles Ponzi would be proud of. In several UK forces but especially the smaller ones, there now appears to be more Chiefs than Indians!

We often have a propensity to look ‘across the pond’ for modern policing ‘inspiration’ so consider this… In my experience of examining the structure of several police departments within North America, the levels of supervision, management and administrative function appear to be significantly less than they are here. Why is that?

Despite people trying to justify the high levels of management within UK policing, many of them uniformed managers justifying their own positions, in the USA the vast majority of police officers appear to be operational responders. The apparently limited administration is mostly carried out by non uniformed staff and in addition, there are seems to be limited numbers of uniforms/ranks between the patrol officers and their Police Chief. If they can ‘manage’ why can’t we?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.