Real World, Fake World: How to be a successful manager, leader, and person

As I detailed in this kind of weird article, the work world is not the real world. Work is a made up place, work hierarchies are made up things, and there’s really no such thing as bosses and employees. Bosses and employees are just regular people pretending to be these things in a fantasy land they call a job.

The faster managers get this concept, the faster they can get on with getting good results in the fake (work) world without destroying their lives and the lives of their employees in the real world. And the opposite is true. When managers think they really are elevated humans who are a divine gift to their work drones they get into all sorts of trouble.

It occurred to me recently that the confluence of these two worlds is a very important space for business managers and leaders. It is at this confluence where the actions and behaviors of business leaders from the fake work actually affect how employees feel/live/thrive in the real world.

The chart below illustrates what I’m talking about. On the left you have the real life world people live in every day along with a list of issues and events that are exclusive to the real world. On the right you have the fake world that is a job, along with the issues that are exclusive to the made up world of work. And in the middle are issues and events that have implications in both worlds.

Leadership and management
How to manage and lead at work

Being a successful manager at work means running a tight ship. For retail/service/hospitality managers like me, this means having the cleanest, neatest, and most organized stores. It means having an area/department/team that out-performs and out-executes competitors and company peers on key performance indicators. It means having people who show up to work on time or early, don’t miss meetings, and act with honesty and integrity.

Being a successful leader at work means managing everything above with empathy. It means understanding that you manage fake world work behaviors not real world people. It means hiring the right people who can grow the business and be happy doing it. It means creating an environment where people can thrive and meet their personal growth/finance/balance goals. It means helping a group people achieve at work what they could not have on their own, which may make their real life a little better/easier/more fulfilling.

Being a successful person at work means recognizing when you’re not in the fake world at all anymore. You’re not the manager anymore when an employee’s sister dies. You’re not the manager anymore when the employee finds out she has cancer. You’re not the manager anymore when the employee is in the delivery room. Being a successful person means loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself.