A Tale of Three Managers

Helmut

Helmut is a German technologist. He lives in Frankfurt. He moved there to develop his career as a technology leader. He is extremely successful. He is a widely recognised thinker, speaker and writer on the industrial use of new technologies.

Helmut gets his kicks when he is teaching, when he is waving his arms about, speaking passionately, drawing frenzied pictures to explain a complex concept. He is thrilled when he creates. He is excited when he wakes others up to new ideas. He loves to create excitement.

Helmut grew up in the black forest. He loves the mountains, the fresh air, and the lakes. He spend his spare time walking, skiing, and sailing. Getting back to nature allows him recuperate from the intensity of the corporate world. It allows his mind to recover. Towards the end of a weekend or more extended break you will find Helmut frantically scribbling down ideas in a mixture of words and pictures.

Jamie

Jamie’s accent is immediately recognisable to the non-Scot. It is Scottish. It has a slightly musical quality that holds the listeners’ attention. But to anyone brought up in Scotland, it is mystifying. There are elements of Glasgow, of Edinburgh, of the Highlands and some unplaceable oddities. Jamie is Scottish, posh Scots. He went to a very good school in England. He tries to hide his background by adopting a “Scottish” accent based on characters from the TV.

Jamie inherited a castle, a large estate which he has farmed for him and a collection of very valuable paintings. He has shipped the paintings to America where he now lives. No one in the USA spots the fake accent. Some people think it quaint and like to listen to him no matter what is actually said.

Jamie has two passions. His pictures and gambling. He just about balances his finances. The farm income and his job give him enough to live comfortably and to cover his losses. Big losses mean selling a picture. Big wins mean buying it back.

Jamie is intelligent. He is a theorist. A conceptual thinker. But when he talks he doesn’t care if he communicates. It is all about the voice. He loves to hear it. It is as though through oratory, in that perculiar accent, Jamie enters another universe where he is at the centre.

Zach

If there is a caricature of an American that will irritate the British then Zach is it. Film star looks, square jaw, bull neck, blue eyes, tall, loud, confident, talks and doesn’t listen. There is the goal, let’s go for it now, we will push through obstacles when we hit them.

Zach was always on the up. Could have played pro football but for injury. Glittering military career. Worked at the top consultancies. Lived in the most glamorous locations. He knew all the stars and even allowed himself to be an extra in a couple of movies. And then he joined us!

What is the opposite of a servant leader? What is the opposite of humble? Zach is! Who knows best? Who doesn’t need advice? That’s Zach! Zach knew us better than we knew ourselves and he knew what was best for us.

Me

I worked for Helmut first. Helmut was inspirational, I would have followed him into any venture that he tried. And I did try to. But Helmut knew me, what I was good at and what I wasn’t so good at. So when he got frustrated with corporate life, he moved on and I stayed put.

Then Jamie came along. This was a struggle that I eventually won. The guy tried to micro manage me. Plus he was a bully. After a bitter six month battle, he was fired. No one should go through the stress of being bullied. Some forms of bullying are illegal, why not all?

Zach was a whirlwind! He was gone before most people noticed he had joined us. The organisation regurgitated him like a pill it could not swallow.

Which brings us to Prem!

PREM

Prem was insecure. He came from an Indian family with a long and aristocratic history. He could bask in glory of his ancestors, but he was not adding to the story. He went to a second rate private school, his elder brothers went to more prestigious schools. He joined the navy because that was what expected of him. As an officer, he was never given respect by other officers or by those he commanded. When he left the navy, his service record was OK, but those he served with didn’t keep in touch. Prem left India and went to live in the USA. He joined a middle sized retailer with the help of an uncle. His career outside the navy was following a familiar path somewhere between success and failure.

Prem was headhunted, much to the surprise of his colleagues. He was offered a huge step up to create a new team. He jumped at it! It was finally a chance to make his mark, to be someone, to show the doubters, to prove himself. He would no longer be looked down on. He would no longer be mediocre.

But Prem had a flaw. He liked people around him who agreed with him, he wanted to be the cleverest person in the room, those who didn’t fit were quietly pushed out.

Me

Prem would have been the fourth manager in the tale of three managers. However, I had seen his style, I knew what was in store for me. I just wanted to do a good job for my customers and help my team become the best they could be. I was tired of the political battles. I was tired of the organisation protecting bullies at the expense of talent.

It was time to move on. Time for a sabbatical. Time to recover. Time to open my eyes to the outside world. Time to laugh. Time to get my creativity back.

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