Management & Leadership

Management & Leadership

By Ben Tootill

I recently re-read an awesome book called First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Kurt Coffman. The book is based on research conducted by Gallup on over a million employees and 80,000 managers. It outlines the common characteristics of great managers from around the world and the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees.

Gallup found that they could measure employee engagement based on the answers to the following questions:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

For the full 12 questions, read the book 

The book is excellent and essential reading for anyone in a leadership or HR role, it’s where the idea came up that managers trump companies or ‘people don’t quit companies, they quit their bosses’.

It was first published in May 1999 – fast forward to 2019, and despite the numerous research articles, books and information available everywhere, we are still seeing many organisations struggle with engagement and productivity.

According to Gallup in 2016, only 33% of employees in the United States were engaged, and employee engagement as a whole only increased by 3% from 2012-2016.

We know that managers have a huge impact on engagement, performance and productivity in the workplace – so what exactly are the key skills managers need to be successful in 2019 and beyond?

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is critical – managers must be able to not take things personally and forge ahead with plans without worrying about the impact on their ego, they must focus on progress and deal with set backs constructively in the workplace.

Cultural Intelligence

Future workplaces will be diverse and global. Managers will be required to become adept at appreciating and leveraging the creative resources within their teams to create maximum value for their customers and stakeholders.


Due to the speed of change, managers need to be agile and embrace and celebrate change while learning new approaches, markets and technology quickly.


With a multigenerational and multicultural workforce, managers need to build connection and trust quickly within their teams. They need to collaborate with and work alongside their employees, getting to know them and helping them acquire new skills and leverage their strengths.

Leadership skills

Traditional leadership styles are being replaced. The ego-centric managerial approach is no longer sustainable. Effective managers are now collaborative contributors, who focus on team development and help create psychological safety within their teams.


For more on leadership skills, view this Ted talk:

Management Programme

A building with Nokia signage.

An interesting analysis
of Nokia’s decline

An interesting analysis of Nokia’s decline and the importance on the role of Leadership in creating a safe environment – summarised by Annie Whitley

Nokia’s Decline – Key points from a blog by Neil Perkin

Matt Edgar’s analysis of Nokia’s decline. Rather than the complacency and ignorance to which
Nokia’s innovation and competitive failures are usually attributed, the author’s research (based on an
internal perspective from interviews with both senior and mid-level executives and engineers as well
as an external one from experts,) puts the blame on an organisational culture that at the time
was dominated by a climate of fear.

The research indicates that, during the time in question, temperamental leaders created an
environment that made it very hard to pass bad news back up the line. The fear that senior
management had of the external environment and of not reaching their quarterly targets in a highly
performance-driven culture seemingly impacted the treatment of their subordinates, making those
middle managers fearful of disappointing the top executives. This ‘froze co-ordination’ between
senior and middle management to the point where the latter over-promised, remained
silent or even directly lied to the former in order to avoid being told that they were not
ambitious enough to meet the stretched goals set for them.

The result was company-wide inertia. Everyone realised that Nokia needed a better
operating system for its phones in order to respond to the threat posed by Apple. But
middle management, fearful of appearing defeatist and of the reaction of their bosses, avoided
publicly admitting the inferiority of Symbian (their own operating system), and the culture led to a
‘decoupling of perceptions’ between the two groups of top and middle managers about how quickly
Nokia could match the iPhone.

This shared fear was exacerbated by a culture of status inside Nokia that equated resources
with power. This made everyone want to retain status in order to prevent resources being allocated
elsewhere or to avoid being marginalised by being perceived to be not ambitious enough or willing
enough to take on challenging projects or targets. Over-promising became a route to securing
more resources which in turn was perceived as an increase in status
The conclusion from the authors is that leaders, and particularly those required to lead
transformation (and which leader doesn’t fall into that category right now), need to be able to
identify ‘varied collective emotions’ and develop a collective ‘emotional capability’ in their
companies. In other words to be really sensitive to the emotional fallout and resultant
impact of the culture within their organisation:
“While modest fear might be healthy for motivation, using it indiscriminately can be like overusing a
drug, which risks generating harmful side effects…Fear can only be a useful motivator if
management can provide workers with the means to address these fears.”
See the full article at