Ageing with grace is an art. So is handling power with grace as you go up the ladder. I’ve seen certain people who have managed to do this absolutely brilliantly. In fact, the higher they went up the ladder, they became more and more humble and understanding. I’ve been blessed to work under a couple of such people when I was in Trivandrum. It was easier to work with them sometimes than with my peers because in their journey to the top they had shed any trace of ego or feeling of superiority they might have had in their younger years. The best quality they had was that they loved listening to others genuinely and trying to see how they could make decisions in a participative manner, thus letting the subordinates feel stronger and more a part of the system.
In my life in the corporate I have also come across some people who have had absolutely no clue of how to manage the newfound power that came to them. They become clueless of what to do and how to do things, that they get the wrong notion in their head that power is to be exercised bluntly. Mostly it comes out in the form of arrogance and sense of superiority that flow out of every mannerism of theirs. This is irritating rather than intimidating. On certain instances some even roar in front of the team shamelessly, “I am the boss. I have the authority. You have to do what I say or get out of the team.” What they fail to understand is that with every showdown of their inability to handle power, their subordinates move farther from them and hate them for what they have become.
To make things further worse, the most fatal approach of all is adopted sometimes – favouritism. Any new opportunity that comes up is first discussed with the “in” group of subordinates and mostly given to them. Thus the others are left with nothing. Whenever this comes up as a question, the excuse would be that people should “seek opportunities”. How to seek them out when they are directed to the favourites before anyone could even know about it is a question no one ever bothers to answer.
This favouritism combined with a “divide and rule” policy can be deeply detrimental to any team. Activities brought about in the name of team building sometimes can lead to harmful conflicts, especially when the team lead fuels the conflicts. I’ve known a person who enjoyed fights among team members and said that was how the team developed. But to make the team “developed” you can’t incite more fights. A number of supervisors wrongly feel that if the team is divided, it reduces the chance of combined resistance against him/her.
At times this happens when a person who lacks experience and maturity that comes with it is placed at the top. Sure, merit has to be considered. But the best performers need not always be the best supervisors, until they are moulded and shaped with experience. There definitely are exceptions. But a person too young with respect to experience in the corporate coming to the helm of a team all of a sudden would find it too much to handle mostly. All such people can do is ape what the big boss does. If imitation is the biggest form of flattery, it can become a real bad form of flattery because they have no clue why they do things that they are doing. People who, once upon a time, were friendly with everyone and considerate, suddenly transform into supervisors who bully and threaten subordinates, take credit of their work to themselves and refuse to motivate team members in any way, lest they outperform them. The obvious resistance that would come up when a person of lesser experience level goes to the top can easily be managed and tamed if only they are more humble and understanding. Instead of going by the “divide and rule” policy and dictatorship just like their role models, if they try to remain a friend and work with them, they can win the hearts of the team members easily.
Think of these when you move up in your career tomorrow and try not to repeat the same mistakes these people made. Being a good supervisor does not mean that you show off your power and intimidate others. It means you know how to be a part of the team and make your team members feel comfortable to open up to you. You have to accept the fact that even people who are younger or less experienced than you, could have good ideas. Be ready to listen to them and discuss the pros and cons. If something good has come from them, appreciate them for that. If something they suggested cannot be taken up, appreciate them for their efforts and try to make them understand why their idea cannot be executed, rather than making fun of them or insulting them.
Ultimately, the key to being a good supervisor is to try and be a good human being because everybody loves a good human being.