According to the UK’s Chartered Management Institute, 44% of managers polled consider that they “excel at people management”.
Yet of those who took a diagnostic test only 14% excelled.
Neither of these figures is surprising. Few managers are actually good with people, and poor management in general has been a particular problem in some British companies for decades. At the same time, British managers can be among the most arrogant in the world – a psychological hangover from the days when middle class Britons effectively ran the world.
Indeed, some British managers are particularly bad because they are particularly arrogant.
The best leaders are humble.
This goes against the traditional image of “The Leader” as the self-confident alpha-male, striding around masterfully and shouting out orders without a moment’s hesitation or, apparently, a moment’s weakness or doubt.
Yet those loudmouths are usually the worst leaders in practice. Convinced of their infallibility, they see listening to others as indecision and they refuse to admit it when they are wrong – which, as a result, they frequently are. Since they lack all self-perception, they do not realise that their subordinates can see all this very clearly and hold them in contempt for it.
The good manager, by contrast, is always learning. He is always listening to others – both because others are more likely to co-operate with him if they feel he has listened to them and because he knows they might just be right. He is always open to the possibility that he might be wrong. He is engaged in a permanent quest to improve how things are done.
Above all, he is dissatisfied with himself. This is the key to all self-improvement. Where someone is perfectly content with himself and his situation, he has no incentive to change anything. Positive change can come only from unhappiness with the status quo – and the greater that unhappiness, the greater the openness to change and the motivation to improve.
The meek will indeed inherit the Earth – not least because they are more willing to adapt than the arrogant.