A professional manager is a salaried expert, trained by education and experience to manage any type of organization-be it a government agency, a computer company, a restaurant, a hospital, or a motel. Although they are only salaried employees, these professionals make decisions that affect the total organization-the prices consumers pay and the dividends stockholders receive.
Management is now recognized as a profession with standard practices and a code of ethics. Some think of it as a science consisting of definite subjects that managers can learn, such as accounting, computer technology, group dynamics, analytical problem solving, and risk taking. Others regard it as an applied art because it takes skill to develop and motivate the human resources involved.
Shareholders or business owners hire professional managers to run an enterprise on their behalf. To survive, a company must market salable goods and services at the right price and quality. Management can achieve this goal only if it employs productive people who are satisfied with the company's working conditions. When a company's management fails, the market value of the company's stock falls. The enterprise then becomes prey for corporate "raiders" who buy poorly managed organizations that have good potential. When that happens, top managers of the raided company are usually replaced.
Effective leaders are dynamic people. They create an atmosphere of change with such enthusiasm and conviction that they excite others and stimulate them to work harder. Consequently, they often achieve objectives that originally seemed out of reach.
Sam Walton, founder and chair of Wal-Mart, Inc., exemplifies the management style of the 1990s. Starting with one small store in rural Arkansas in 1962, he has built a retail empire based on quality products and good service at low prices. His book, Made in America, written with co-author John Huey and published in 1991, the year of his death, provides a wealth of anecdotal wisdom for the would-be manager.
Walton maintained that most of his ideas were not original, claiming that he borrowed a little from everyone. The key to his success seems to rest in his recognition of the value of service and his ability to motivate employees to provide that service on an ongoing basis. Walton often dropped in unannounced at his retail outlets to ensure that high-quality service was being provided.
Sam Walton was an outstanding manager. But he and all the other managers across the country have one thing in common. They all have businesses to run. When they are effective, their companies survive, provide jobs, and retain their share of the market.
The person who has the natural ability to manage an organization effectively under varying conditions is unusual. Some people have better aptitude for managing than others-just as some lawyers, doctors, ministers, and professors have more talent than their colleagues. This does not mean, however, that natural, charismatic leaders can disregard the theory and fundamentals of management education. Even born leaders need to learn how to use their resources effectively. Professional managers need to know management theory, if for no other reason than to appreciate the problems, philosophies, and principles of earlier managers. Even talented leaders are likely to encounter some difficulty in moving from one managerial level to another. In this situation, acquired skills, increased knowledge, and an understanding of behavioral psychology are valuable assets.
You may have noticed that nearly everyone takes care of (manages) something: children, pets, money and property. Of course, professional management goes beyond just taking care of people or things. Through special knowledge and administrative skills, managers try to maximize results, to get the most out of both material and human resources.
Another word for maximizing results is synergism-achieving a total result that is greater than the sum of the parts. Stated differently, resources are more valuable when they interact than when they remain separate. Synergism, therefore, is a desirable goal for all types of managers.
As an example of maximizing results through effective management, consider how two people manage their savings. One person keeps the money in a locked box and buries it for safekeeping. The other invests it and increases its value. This simple illustration shows how one manager may conserve resources, even though they may depreciate in value over time. The effective manager does something to improve the value of resources.
Since management is a means of making progress and of producing results through others, it provides jobs, goods, and services that affect us all. As managers become involved in social and economic problems such as inflation, minority rights, and public accountability, they affect employment and lifestyles. As business and government managers become involved in international relations, they affect world commerce, natural resources, and the total health of our society.
A World Economy
The trend is toward a global economy. Firms from Italy and Japan have branches in the United States, and American firms have branches in countries all over the world. This trend, facilitated by airplanes, e-mail, and teleconferencing, gives managers a new role, leaders in world problems and human rights.
Some of the problems that the world faces can be alleviated or even solved by the experienced leadership and judgment found in upper management levels. Even though profit making and competition remain at the heart of business management, responsible leaders recognize the dignity of labor and the importance of human rights everywhere. Business leaders today must examine their value systems in the larger context of world problems. They are becoming more aware of the need to preserve resources and to develop a better world for everyone. Today's managers have a unique opportunity. They can work to maximize results and to help solve some of the world's urgent problems.
What's in it for you? You will find a whole lifetime of exciting challenges to leave the world just a little better than you found it. But you must get the right education, acquire meaningful management experiences, and be willing to work and to assume responsibility.
What is the best way to manage: authoritarian, permissive, consultative? Should one tell employees what to do and how to do it? Or should one take time to confer with them? There are zealots, pragmatists, and by-the-book managers. The issue of management style is a lively one because a manager's style does make a difference in how people react and work together. The current trend is toward a participative approach and a group-think style.
Which style gets the best results?
Most experts believe that, to some degree, a person's management style is dictated by his or her personality. At the same time, a good manager must adapt his or her natural style to fit the personalities of employees and the demands of the work being supervised. For example, accounting work is very detailed and must be performed in prescribed ways. Likewise, those in the accounting field are generally attracted to it because of its order and predictability. Therefore, a manager might tend to use a more autocratic style to ensure that all work is done according to the required rules. On the other hand, a manager of a group of architects might find a participatory style more suitable because architects must be creative in order to achieve their design goals. This manager would need to give employees freedom to try new ideas and find the best solutions.
The Team Approach
In the United States, managers pay special attention to creating environments where employees can grow and participate. The modem trend is to involve workers in planning goals and procedures that affect the company's progress. To help employees gain skill and confidence in group participation, managers experiment with team approaches-weekly meetings, ad hoc committees, and performance evaluation conferences.
Some managers have learned that a good way to get employee cooperation is by using the team approach. Employees learn to share ideas, overcome negative attitudes, and improve interpersonal communication skills. However, many managers still have to learn how to use the team approach effectively.