September 12, 2023

Old School and New School Management

I met with a friend who's been at a new job for about a year. His boss, the CEO, has a reputation for treating employees poorly. I asked him how it's going, and if the CEO’s reputation is well-earned.

“Yes, unfortunately it is," he said. “He's hired some good people, but he doesn't let them do their jobs. He dives into minutiae that a CEO just shouldn't be involved in. The tiniest detail has to be done his way, and if it isn't he's quick to start screaming. It's not a great work environment — it's like a corporate dictatorship.”

This is what I call old school management — though it wasn’t that prevalent even in the old days. Old school management is characterized by a belief that employees are too incompetent, disinterested or lazy to be trusted. They cannot be empowered to operate independently. Since they can't be relied on to do the right thing, the best way to motivate them is through fear.

CEOs who practice this style of management churn executive talent. Further, they hit a ceiling very quickly. For them, leadership is synonymous with control. Since they are unwilling to delegate authority, their businesses stop growing when they hit the point at which one person can no longer make all the important decisions.

Contrast that with new school management. New school management is characterized by a belief that most people take pride in their work and want to do good job. A CEO who adopts the style views himself as the coach of a high-performing team. He takes great care to select the best players, gives them a high degree of autonomy, and then works tirelessly to create the conditions they need to succeed.

New school managers get the most from their people. Their employees, in turn, are happy and want to stick around.

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of Praise

Mike does an outstanding job from start to close. He ran a thorough, efficient and professional process. Most importantly, he identified and helped close the best candidate for the job. Highly encourage anyone to consider Mike.

— Tom Bassinger, Managing Director, Rockport Venture Partners