Lessons in Management: Get Your Hands Dirty

It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. -Adlai Stevenson

Looking back on other jobs I’ve had, the managers I have always had the most respect for and consider to be “the best” managers I’ve had have been the ones that don’t mind getting their hands dirty. On the flip side, managers who simply delegate all responsibilities and never “do anything” – or at least that is the perception – are the ones that are impotent leaders.

As I’ve waded through the the transition into senior management, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking back on my own personal history and asking myself what those great managers would have done. It’s not a surprise that I’m most at ease working with my team than simply directing them in what to do.

There is a difference between leadership and management. My goal is to be the best damn leader I can be – and truth be told, that is a learning experience.

A couple years ago, Mel Gibson came out with the movie We Were Soldiers, the story of the first battle that the United States was involved with in Vietnam. Mel Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore who commanded the platoon featured in the movie. A quote that sticks with me to this day (and is appropriate on this Memorial Day): “I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God.”

A manager that is not willing to be in the mud with his troops is not a manager I want to work for. The best guys I’ve worked for were not afraid to be in the mud with me. That sticks with me. I hope I demonstrate it too.