The first three – functions, roles, and skills – can be found in any management textbook. Luthans’s work is less well known. Even more obscure is the work of Elliott Jaques. His Harvard Business Review article from 1990 “In Praise of Hierarchy” was an instant classic and deserving of far more attention from scholars and practitioners than it has received. This article is loaded with nuggets.
So how does Jaques answer the question of what a manager should do?
- Accountability – The manager must be held accountable for the work of subordinates.
- More on accountability - The manager must be held accountable to add value to the work of subordinates.
- Even more on accountability – The manager must be held accountable for making sure subordinates have the capabilities to get the work done.
- And even more on accountability - The manager must be held accountable “for setting direction and getting subordinates to follow willingly, even enthusiastically” (p. 130).
1. We don’t talk much about accountability. A key to being a good leader and manager is holding yourself and others accountable. How often do you see the failure of a manager to hold people accountable for their actions or inactions? Holding someone accountable often requires correction, even confrontation, but this is part of the manager’s job. Jaques saw lack of accountability as a major problem.
2. Leaders grow their people and in so doing grow their organizations. If employees lack the training or aptitudes for the work at hand, the leader must act. If they are good at what they are doing, the leader finds ways to build on those strengths and help subordinates be the best they can be.
3. “Follow willingly, even enthusiastically” – in my opinion this results from leadership. Managers can get the job done but leaders get it done willingly and often enthusiastically.
4. I think Jaques’ summation “every manager is accountable for work and leadership” should be read by managers each day, displayed on desktops, written on white boards, pinned to bulletin boards or summarized: "Accountability".
Leading is a great responsibility. It is not easy. The leader will face challenges. But at the heart of organizational success will be sustained employees and a culture of accountability and trust.
Jaques, E. (1990). In praise of hierarchy. Harvard Business Review (January-February), 127-133.
Image “Measure” ©John Ballard, 2014.