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Why Good Managers are Good Lovers
Frederic W. Widlak, Ph.D.
[MBA Commencement Addressat Wyzsza Szkola Biznesu—National-Louis University in Nowy Sacz, Poland on March 8, 2008]
Today, I am here to tell you why good managers are good lovers.
A few years ago, I presented a workshop to the asystents [junior faculty members] here at Wyzsza Szkola Biznesu—National-Louis University about improving their teaching. I began by trying to convince them that good teachers were good lovers. How did I generate this outrageous idea?
When I was thinking very intensely about the characteristics of a good teacher, I found that I had to consider more than “content” and “process.” Anyone who teaches should know the content—the subject matter to be taught—and use an appropriate process—the teaching method that works best for the students. But a teaching machine or a computer can be programmed to do that. A good teacher understands the purpose of the teaching— the goals of the educational program, which are much broader than the individual teacher’s objectives and are specified in terms of the students’ outcomes. But I think that there is an additional characteristic of good teachers that goes beyond content, process, and purpose.
This additional characteristic is difficult to define in a single word, so I will try to describe it. A good teacher can communicate to the students a love for the subject matter, a love for teaching, a love for learning, and a love for them. My assertion is that this communication is simultaneously intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. This results in changes in the way that students think, feel, and are connected with the universe. This reminded me of something I had read in Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving: “Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man, a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity.” This convinced me of the connection between teaching and loving.
In a job interview many years ago, I was asked to describe what a good manager was like. After thinking a few seconds, I answered that a good manager was a good teacher. Just like a teacher, a manager should be an excellent communicator, facilitator, and evaluator. Both teachers and managers must be able to explain the content and the process of the work to be done, to give encouragement and incentives to the students or workers, to give rewards for good work, to be patient with work that is not-so-good, and to help the students or workers improve and advance in their careers.
If good teachers are indeed good lovers, and if good managers are good teachers, then it logically follows that good managers are good lovers.
But the work of a manager is not exactly like that of a teacher. What are some additional things to consider when you are a manager? You should keep two general questions in mind: First—Am I doing things right (that is, correctly)? And second—Am I doing the right (that is, relevant) things?
The first question deals with administrative, operational issues while the second deals with strategic, visionary issues. Warren Bennis makes the distinction between transactional leadership (Doing things right) and transformational leadership (Doing the right thing).
Transactions versus Transformations -- What is the difference?
The dictionary definition of a transaction is that it is a business deal or negotiation. At the end of a transaction, each person has some things added and other things subtracted.
The dictionary definition of a transformation is that it is a change or alteration in form or function, esp. a radical one. At the end of a transformation, each person involved is different from before, but probably in different ways.
True leadership is transformational. Therefore the teaching of leadership as a management subject is complicated, because the end result for each student will necessarily be different. Except for your names, all of your National-Louis University diplomas look the same, but you are more than customers who have bought an education. You have each changed in your own way.
It is clear that we expect teachers to be transformers. I believe that we must also expect managers to be transformers.
Love is a transformational process, rather than a transactional event. Managers need to incorporate transformational, process-oriented loving into their work.
Just as good teachers are much more than “talking books”, good managers are much more than “worker controllers.” Good managers are good lovers. Be a good manager and a good lover.