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Leadership in management - Canada's problem.

Good supervisors look after their people first; if this is successful, the company will be automatically looked after

We stand at this time at a period which will, without doubt, in later years be seen as a crossroads of human progress, or regress, and it is my intention to address the moral issues involved in management.

It is in failure to recognize and attend to these moral issues that Canada, along with others, has lost its way. There are two questions to be answered:

* What do I mean by morality?

* Why have I chosen to talk about it?

The elementary principles of management

As a beginning, let us examine some of the elementary principles of management that today have been cast overboard.

We can define "management" with two descriptions which, taken together, are both necessary and sufficient:

1) The organization of a sequence of events to secure a desired end result with the conservation of some scarce resource;

2) The art of getting things done through other people.

Today, I wish to consider the second aspect.

I was fortunate in my early life in that, when I joined the Army, they still had horses. The horses went five hours after I arrived, but the spirit of a unit with horses remained. That spirit can be summed up, and was summed up, thus:

An officer:

First looks after the horses; Then he looks after the men; Then he looks after himself.

The point I am making is that a supervisor's first duty is to the men he supervises and not to the company. If he looks after his men in the best tradition of an officer in the Royal Artillery or the Gurkhas, then the company will automatically be looked after.

A supervisor must fight against all injustice perpetrated, or liable to be perpetrated, and, as his men develop, he must not hold them back for his own advantage, but must let them go so that they may progress. He must be interested in his people as people, and know their hopes and their problems and their families. He should understand and show a sympathetic interest in their hobbies and interests outside work.

As a very famous general once said to me, "Jasper, you cannot expect a man to die for you if you do not know his name."

Supervisors and managers need to be leaders: leadership is not something that can be taught, though it is something that one can help people to learn. It is a very poorly understood human characteristic and thus it is well to look at its constituent elements before discussing it. A leader must have all the following characteristics:

Courage; integrity; foresight; creativity; real knowledge of the job; sincere interest in people; planning ability; judgement; patience.

And, he must have all of these characteristics.

I will not, except in one case, attempt to rate these in any order. The exception is courage. This is by no means sufficient, but it is the first of the necessary conditions. Churchill expressed its importance in a masterly manner, "Courage," he said, "is the first requisite of any man, for, without it, he cannot utilize his other qualities".

Courage enables a man or woman to make a decision in difficult circumstances and get on with the job.

The management of companies

What is, or should be, the goal of company management? This has been lost sight of in the past 25 years. The goal of company management should be related to the second of our leadership qualities: integrity. The goal of management should not be, as has unfortunately become the common aim, to personally gain from the trust which has been reposed in them. Instead, it should clearly be like that of the abbot of some great medieval abby -- to hand the enterprise on to the next man in at least as good a shape as he received it and, if possible, in even better condition. In other words, to perpetuate the company as a viable organism.

This does not mean that the manager should refuse reasonable and earned hurrahs and awards, but it does mean that these should be accepted with grace and some humility and should not be worked for to the detriment of the enterprise entrusted to him.

The Japanese

I certainly have some claim to be considered a Japanese expert, and most of the writings about the Japanese system I find not only misleading, but positively sickening.

Our business writers and business men who go to Japan see only the outward signs, which they then try to copy, and almost invariably fail in doing so, to achieve the Japanese results.

The secret of the Japanese -- and it is not secret if you understand what they do -- lies in exactly the two principle points that I made a few moments ago:

* They are concerned about their people, and they care for them. Continuous learning and development is a way of life at all levels of the company.

* They do regard the perpetuation of the enterprise and consequently, the secured future of the employees, as their responsibility and charge.

They regard the bottom line as a necessary, but by no means sufficient condition.

American business schools and their limitations

Mention of bottom line management naturally brings our discussion round to the business schools, and here, I must recommend to you a little-known but important book, Up Your MBA Harvard, by W. Shaughnessy, every word of which I believe to be true.

Focusing attention on the bottom line, as has been the teaching of business schools, and the application of these principles under the instruction of their sycophants, the management consultants, has resulted in a race of bottom line managers.

The bottom line is only one dimension management which, like flying, is a multi-dimensional activity. None of us would fly with a pilot who announced his intention of using only the compass and ignoring the altimeter, yet we allow these bottom line managers to run our companies.

Peter Drucker likens bottom line management to driving at high speed on the freeway using the rear-view mirror as the guidance system.

In my judgment, P.F. Drucker's book, Management Tasks, Responsibility, and Practice, will never be bettered as a compendium of management from experience mixed with some good psychology. At one time, this book was found in almost every manager's office, but few had ever read it. The problem with present-day management is that few read deeply out the subject.

They read easy and useless things or even set the whole of their organization to follow some new management ideas, such as MBO's. Zero-Based Budgeting, In Search of Excellence, which they have never ready thoroughly themselves.

Now that we have mentioned Drucker, it is proper that I should take a few moments to acknowledge his great contributions.

Unfortunately, today he is regarded rather as the Jews of old regarded some of their Prophets and, to a large extent, has been pushed out from the minds of management by the fastbuck boys who have studied companies, which at that time looked successful, but without understanding what they saw and heard.

In short, poor management in Canada can be related to continuously looking for a combination of the Philosopher's Stone: everything touched with it turns to gold, and the elixir of life: one swig and you live forever. Drucker tells us. "There is no separate ethic of management. Neither is one needed."


It is important to realize that ethic is like virginity -- there is no halfway state. The temptations along the long road of life to behave unethically are many, and it takes courage to stand up to them. Once a man gives way, he is finished and can never be trusted again. Sooner or later, he will again behave unethically for this own advantage. We are again returned to the principles of management with which I began -- treat your people ethically -- maintain a high standard of ethics.

An unbelievably high proportion of managers never read key books. Drucker's magnum opus, Brown's, Organization, Bass on Task Forces ...", are dealing with management from the aspect of codified experience. There is another way of looking at management, by the principles of cybernetics. Here is a theoretical background that meshes well with codified experience where they overlap.

The most important books regarding this advanced kind of management are those off Stafford Beer, Decision and Control, The Brain of the Firm, and The Heart of Enterprise. The five systems of Stafford Beer exist in recursive form in all viable enterprises. In my view, no one should be permitted to rise above a certain level of management without having read and shown understanding of the six books I have mentioned.

Reduction in research

This has been a continuing trend, not only in Canada, but also in the U.S.A. The classic paper of Ron Allen in 1979, describes the situation as it was then for Canada's largest industry, and it has substantially deteriorated since that time, as shown in fig. 1.

A study of the significant papers in the preprints of conferences in my industry, reveals a disproportionate number from Sweden and Finland.

The research effort in Sweden and Finland, Germany and Japan, has not been reduced, rather it has been increased, in this same period. The expenditure of research in one industry is now about twice or three times in Sweden to that in Canada, on a per tonnage basis.

Reduction in technical staff

Along with the reduction in research has gone a reduction in technical staff in our manufacturing units. In Canada, for example, "We have enough people (just) to run our plant but not enough to think."

In many cases, technical expertise has been lost to the suppliers.

Even if the knowledge is generated, there are frequently insufficient technical personnel to understand or focus it and use it. "Transmitters are of no use without receivers."

For example, a very rough estimate would indicate that the average newsprint mill in North America could employ 50 extra engineers and break even if they reached the efficiency of the Japanese. Regarding fine paper, the Germans have told me, "Our profit is almost exactly equal to the difference between our efficiency and yours. If we ran our machines the way you run yours, we would go broke."

These differences are due to too few technical people and too little research, because of reductions created by bottom line management.

Reduction of standards

Along with the reduction of research and of technical staffs has gone a lowering of technical and operating standards.

People behave in the way they are judged; if this is true, it is the responsibility of the management that does the judging.


It is appropriate to end on a positive note that will involve a minor, but positive amount of recapitulation.

Assuming that the men and women we are concerned with have the basic necessities, and that the society in which they live and work makes motivation by paying them more difficult, the following summary seems to be the general consensus.

Essentially, we are considering the factors that motivate a crack regiment in the army, a team of mountaineers, the great religious orders (in the days when they were a positive force for good), a team of any sport that is successful. To be successful, all must have "team spirit".

What is team spirit, or regimental pride, or any of the other words by which we can describe a group working together for a common end and imbued with such a spirit that we describe them as motivated?

This is a subject that is not dealt with in the usual management books because the people who write them and teach have seldom managed anyone.

Management, if it is to be successful and sustained, is not the management of money nor the management of inventory, nor the management of resources, however important these may be. Neither is it the management of abstract figures or a bunch of cyphers and symbols. It is the management of people, or better, the leadership of people.

No one should be allowed to talk to any group of people from industry with regard to management unless he has managed people in his or her career. Pseudo-professional managers, who have never managed anyone, are incapable of understanding the meaning of the word "motivation" and, therefore, cannot write successfully about it.

What, then, distinguishes the team from a group of individual players or the great regiment from the normal? We are certainly taking on a formidable task in endeavouring to elucidate this, but let us try:

* A sense of belonging to a "special" group -- not an ordinary team, but the team; not an ordinary regiment, but the regiment; not an ordinary company, but the company.

* A sense of being superbly well-trained for the job.

* Confidence in the leadership.

* A sense of responsibility for one's fellow workers and the job they do, as well as what one does oneself.

I believe these four encompass the totality. The first three are, I think, clear without further explanation. The last needs a little more explanation, and this is given below by two examples, following which we will discuss "how it is done". Both are from military life, because that is where my experience started. The principle, however, is on universal application.

Example 1: The German general staff:

"Responsibility, as a characteristic of the (German) general staff, was a concept similar to, but not quite the same as "initiative". It was partly the willingness to accept responsibility that goes with initiative but, even more, it was a realization that any German officer or soldier would feel a responsibility to do something about it, regardless of a personal risk or physical danger".

In most armies, we can find similar instances of personal commitment, but almost never so pervasively as in the German army. And, unfortunately, in other armies one can find over the course of history an offsetting general willingness, often eagerness, not to get involved in someone else's problems.

Example 2: The Gurkhas:

Why do I lie here in the wet and die, That far away a mother then will cry? It's only that I'm caught in little understood, With that great band unique the Gurkha brotherhood. Each man of us but knows he is his brother's keeper; The longer serve we in the band, The more the thought runs deeper.

If one accepts this argument for a motivated crew or team, we should now address the question of "How do we get there?" This is an expansive topic but we can lay out key items as principles as follows:

1) You can pull people after you as long as you like, but you can only push them in front of you for a limited period. This means leaders who lead!

2) Leadership is one-third example, one-third persuasion, and one-third coercion.

3) Leaders must have the characteristics discussed earlier and remember, "You cannot lead a group in a matter you know nothing about."

4) Leadership creation cannot simply be done by training others. The whole top management must be devoted to the principles. The top management must have integrity.

5) Interest in people must be genuine and sustained. Every effort should be made to know as many people and as much about them as possible. This has to be organized! As we noted above, it must be the conscious objective of every manager and supervisor. (A colonel in the Gurkhas would know the names of 400 to 500 of the men in his regiment.)

6) Think of the men you supervise as your responsibility.

7) Adopt a program of continuous learning. This, together with Items 4, 5 and 6, is the secret of the Japanese success. There is nothing Japanese about this -- these principles are thousands of years old.

8) Communicate what is happening.

9) Listen to what they are saying; keep your finger on the pulse. Don't forget the spouses and families. Think like the best kind of army colonel.

Trust in the company is trust in management. Ethics are not outdated. We need an ethical revolution -- I hope you will do your part!

It is my strong contention that you cannot teach leadership, but you can help people to learn.

Management, in order to create a group of small teams that are part of larger teams, that are the whole enterprise, must then create leaders and enable them to lead.

By "creating" leaders is not meant giving them courses chosen by some personnel department and run by people who have never led anything. The creation of leaders must be very carefully thought out and planned and, as I pointed out years ago, this cannot be done by a normal course mechanism.

How should one want to be judged?

One should be judged primarily by the good men one has made. It is not possible to make a lot of good men without getting a lot done and, if they are good men, they will be the right things that they do; beware of the man who is full of what he is, of what he has accomplished, but who has never developed anyone.

Do not put your personal gain before the gain of others. As a manager, you must balance the gains and losses of many parties.

Management is a trustee for the stakeholders: the shareholders; the employees; the community at large; clients and others.

You cannot sacrifice any one to the gain of others. Management must operate on the basis of not knowingly doing harm to others -- the Hippocratic Oath. By holding to this principle, management imposes on itself a discipline which leads to good decisions. It is necessary that the interests of all parties are taken care of if the enterprise is to survive.

The boss is the company to his subordinates. This is why one must begin with employee relationships.

Integrity is my central theme because survival of the enterprise is dependent on the trust of the stakeholders.

Trust in the company is trust in the management.

The goal of company management must be to perpetuate the company as a viable organism.

Concluding thoughts

It all goes back to a few things that matter:

* Leadership is: one-third example, one-third persuasion, and one third coercion.

* Courage is the first requisite of a leader.

* You cannot lead in the true sense without integrity and interest in, and developing of, people.

* Ethics are not outdated.

In an address to a Canadian Senate committee 23 years ago, I identified management as one of Canada's two major problems.

The situation today is even worse than in 1969. Canada has lost its way. The principles I have outlined show the way back.

I call on you all to do your part. We need an ethical revolution. SHOW BY DOING!

Jasper Mardon, FCIC, Omni Continental, Vancouver. This is the R.S. Jane Memorial Award Lecture which Dr. Mardon delivered last year at the awards dinner of the 42nd Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference, Toronto, October 18-21, 1992.
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Author:Mardon, Jasper
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:May 1, 1993
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