I have been watching a film about Jack Charlton who died in 2020. Finding Jack Charlton focuses on Jack Charlton the manager. For a decade he inspired a modest outfit to consistently over perform. Former colleagues recounted stories which gave insights into his management style. He could be single minded and inflexible, he could be direct to the point of being abrasive, he was decisive and clear and he wasn’t much interested in discussing the options. But he was a very good man manager. His notes to himself put it bluntly – ‘be a dictator but be a nice one’.
This type of management is not as old school as some of today’s management gurus would have you believe. In difficult and uncertain times clarity and direction assume a greater importance and man management or people management skills never go out of fashion.
Being a dictator is doing things your way and being ruthless in dealing with dissent or opposition. This type of manager is not seduced by talent. To them the exceptionally talented are not necessary, since their outstanding ability may lead to an independence of mind and a reluctance to do things the prescribed way. Think of it like a rower who is capable of going faster than the rest of the crew but in doing so pulls the boat off course and makes it harder to steer.
We all know what a dictator looks like but what does a ‘nice one’ look like? It’s all down to how they relate to the individuals they manage and how they are viewed by the wider world. The manager sets the tone in encouraging a relaxed atmosphere with in the team. The manager knows each team member as an individual, he knows their history and their personality, he recognises their feelings and he uses this knowledge to get the best out of this person and to talk to them in such a way as to get their message across effectively. Those that need nurturing get nurturing, those that want to be valued and trusted are valued and trusted, those who lack confidence in their ability are boosted by the confidence the manager has in their ability.
These same communication skills are brought to bear on the wider audience. Jack Charlton would joke that he could talk. What was obvious was that he could make his audience feel comfortable whether that was an audience of one or an audience of hundreds. And it didn’t matter whether the audience was a conference room full of professionals or an impromptu chat with one of the catering staff. People who had never met him felt they knew him and people who did meet him felt he knew them.
Of course a dictator, even a nice one, is a dictator and can be opinionated, abrasive and intolerant of those who do not see things their way. The longer they are in post the more people they will alienate. Once the results are no longer as impressive then sheer force of personality alone will not be enough and a different more inclusive management style will be called for.
Blair Mcpherson is a former director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk