Although morally good people do not necessarily make good
managers, it does seem a universal truth that bad people make bad managers.
Their defects of character tend to come out in their
To quote an extreme example, it was Adolf Hitler’s paranoia
and megalomania that caused him to micro-manage military operations on the
Eastern Front in World War Two – with disastrous results for his own side.
Field Marshal von Manstein, his best field commander, describes
how it was sometimes impossible to move a single regiment, among hundreds,
without approval from Berlin – but, at the same time, equally difficult to get
a definite decision from about the general strategy of the campaign. Far from
being a contradiction, this is a common flaw in micro-managers, who are too
obsessed with individual trees to spend time considering the forest as a whole.
Micro-management is almost always a mistake. Even if there
was perfect communication – and there never is – the man on the spot will
always know more about what is happening on the ground than the man in the top
floor office. That problem is made worse by the inevitable delays in getting a
decision, as the decision-maker is busy with his other responsibilities, and as
messages take hours, even days, to travel up and down the chain of command – during
which time the whole situation may have changed.
The irony is that, through no merit of his own, Hitler had
inherited an excellent professional officer class from the previous regimes
which included some of the most talented soldiers in history – von Manstein,
Kesselring, Rommel, Guderian, and Student, among many others.
These men were the product of a military tradition which –
contrary to national stereotype – encouraged initiative on the part of
It is just as well for the rest of humanity that Hitler had
did not know how to use them. He called himself the Fuhrer – “the Leader” – but
the fact is that Hitler had no idea how to lead. He could not delegate. Unable
to trust others, he was not trusted by his own senior executives. Too busy
meddling with details, he neglected the real function of a leader: he failed to
provide a clear sense of direction and strategy.
Today, an interfering, officious manager or bureaucrat who
tries to cover his own inadequacies by ordering others about is often called a
“little Hitler”. It is a fitting monument to the original.