Opinion

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Is successful management a result of nature or nurture?

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The best leaders take their team on a journey to a better place. They support changes within individuals as well as within the business, leaving a lasting memory. On the other hand, awful leaders rip your confidence to shreds, they pick at your every mistake and make others up. Then there is the mediocre. But what defines this management gap – and is it due to simple nature or the ability to nurture?

If we were to go by the former, that would suggest we are all born managers. From my observation and experience, some individuals struggle to manage themselves let alone others. If we are born to be managers, then environmental factors play a large part in nurturing this and an even larger part in impeding this.

The majority of managers will have worked their way up the ranks, gaining experience and receiving promotions to get where they are today.

Yet some involved with management won’t be doing as well as they or those around them had hoped. Questions then arise such as, “Why were they so good at their previous role and failing now?” and “What is wrong with them now?”.

The questions that should be asked are “How well have these managers been nurtured?” “What support have they received in the past?”, “What development have they received and continue to receive?”. Surely if nature played a part in this, then it would be a (semi) uniformed process to manage.

The Peter principle

This principle is an observation that within an organisational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to their level of incompetence.

Incompetence may be where nature stops. You (myself included) are not all capable of, for example, being surgeons, vets and carers. Or are you? Is it not your natural passions that motivates you to want to do something well?

I know amazing people who work in care homes with both adults and children. I certainly could not do the job anywhere near as well as them. I don’t have the passion, patience or the want.

However, left to use only their instinct and passions would the care homes run as well? By nurturing them and developing their skillset there is an opportunity to synchronise both their passion (nature) with external development (nurture) to create something better.

Therefore, for most (not all) individuals with their passion aligned to the correct attitude, behaviour, environment and nurturing they will overcome the initial level incompetence of where nature leaves off.

That said, not everyone wants to be the best, or most senior and so their level of incompetence may actually be a result of disinterest.

The most common reason for the disparity amongst managers arises from a lack of tools, support and direction that is being provided. Those struggling are unlikely to have the correct tools to manage themselves, let alone the tools to be able to manage the team successfully and effectively.

Nature will take you part way to better management, nurture will round the edges and give you the skillset to finish the job off. It is not only yourself who notices underperformance, your team are all seeing it. It is time to take action.

Margo Manning is a leadership and development coach, as well as author of The Step Up Mindset for New Managers (£14.99, Panoma Press). 

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