When to do battle with the troops

Have you ever come across this great manager who does not hesitate to roll up his sleeves and jump in and do work with his team members?

What a great guy! He does not hesitate to get his hands dirty, working side by side with his colleagues rather than stay in that ivory tower “strategizing”.

This is a man of the people. He is like the general who is down there in the trenches fighting the good fight alongside fellow foot soldiers not just leaving them to die on the field alone. He is there in the thick of it, facing death like all of them.

What a great general!  If only all generals were like him. Right?

No. Wrong!

When a general jumps into the field and starts fighting alongside his men, he will have put all their lives in even more danger. He is now so close to the fighting that he cannot see the entire battlefield. He does not see that enemy garrisons are approaching from the left flank or that his supply routes from the south have been cut off by enemy troops.

The notion of a general or a manager jumping in and working as a team member is a populist notion which makes for good hero stories and movies. However in the world of management or the military, the first thing an enemy will want to do is take out the central command. Why? Because it is that which will break the coordination of the army, break communication, cause disarray, confusion and absolute chaos.

A manager needs to stand back, examine the whole picture, view everything from above and how it all fits and moves together. A manager needs to think strategically.

And that is impossible if you are down there in the trenches.

There will be times when a manager can and should help out by working with the team. Maybe the team is small, the work minimal or resources are not available. But his or her primary role is to manage, to plan. And that cannot be ignored. The manager can jump in when, and only when, that primary role is satisfied. Otherwise the whole project or battle will be put into jeopardy.


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