I Know Nothing

I go through these development cycles at work. I get to a point where I am quite sure I have mastered the field of management. I begin to imagine myself as a gift to the fortunate few, those who are privileged enough to follow my lead. My imagination runs wild and I think of myself as some grand historical leader or a powerful sci-fi movie character (like in this post). Just a moment before I declare myself a management sage, something comes along proving how completely clueless I really am. What a fool.

I had it all figured out early, back in 2007 when I was twenty-five years old and a veteran manager with five whole years of experience under my belt. Around that time, I started reading more and more about management and leadership, and I realized how much there was to learn and how little I knew. I enrolled in the MBA program at The University of Hartford where I could absorb all the information from books and teachers. I was just a few short years away from knowing it all.

I’m finishing my MBA this semester, taking on new projects, and writing about all of my exploits here on this blog. A true master, I did it, finally. Then, the other day, a coworker of mine told me how an ex-employee said I was a “pretty good manager, but not a strong leader.” Mix this comment with a couple of crises at work, and I start to question if I ever knew anything about anything to begin with. Damn, this whole leadership thing was supposed to be my brand.

I’ve heard people drastically overestimate the quality of their performance at work. I’m sure I’m no exception to this theory. After all, isn’t it the height of arrogance to drone on and on about how much I know about leadership and management in this forum? But despite my faults, mistakes, and ups and downs, I do feel consistently satisfied with my effort and my intentions. I always have the best interest of my people in mind, even when they don’t see it.

Perhaps this intention is a flaw in itself. I say “my people” as if I own them. This past week a top performing front-line associate told me how he views managers in our company as his assistants. I’ve read about “servant leadership” and heard other managers talk about how they’ve adopted this philosophy, but how many of us truly believe in the concept at our core? It’s good to hear a humbling comment from a disgruntled ex-employee or have things go wrong every now and then. Getting knocked off my high horse reminds me that I’m the assistant.