Uncommonly Common Sense for Leadership

Uncommonly Common Sense for Leadership


The Secret Laws of Management: The 40 Essential Truths for Managers” by Stuart Wyatt (160 pages pages)

Published by Headline Publishing Group (part of the Hachette Group),  2010


How do we tackle taking up our first management role. What behavior may we have to adjust, which types of tasks and initiatives should we focus on? What are the most typical pitfalls we’ll want to make certain to avoid?

Switching into a new role can be daunting, which is why having a solid support system behind us is essential. The support system may come in the shape of your HR department, our superior or we may have the good fortune to be hooked up with a mentor.

Then, of course, there are the tons upon tons of books written on the subjects of management and leadership. Many of these books can be heavy going, though, when what we really need is short, succinct advice that is easy to remember every day. Stuart Wyatt has authored a short book that gives brief advice on a number of issues, we will likely be faced with in roles of leadership.


Should we manage or should we lead. The degree to which either is applicable depends on the situation, however, rarely (if ever) can we rely solely on one discipline. We need to set direction, and instigate innovation and change to make sure we don’t become obsolete. However, in order for us to stay operational, we also need to be organized, have plans and follow-up.

We need to be comfortable in being out front and very visible in good times and in less than good times. We must accept that we may not necessarily win popularity contests, because some of the initiatives we start will move people outside their routines and comfort zones.

What we must also recognize is that we are deeply interdependent with the people working with us. We need to delegate tasks and initiatives in a meaningful way. That should mean delegate to the person whose skills and competences are best spent getting a successful outcome from this particular task. Delegation should not focus on loading the same highly competent people until these are far too busy to achieve traction on any of their many assignments. Instead, assignments should go to people who have potential and need specific assignments to develop this potential further.

Team productivity

Most of us have worked in teams at some point in our work lives. Most of us will have experienced the exhilaration of accomplishing complex goals together with a group of dedicated and competent people. However, I am also sure that most of us can recall situations where team output would amount to little more than frustration, loss of motivation and lack of direction.

What happened? Not unlikely, the delegation process and the team management did not provide the clarity and motivation that enabled us to move forward with confidence and enthusiasm. Maybe we were unsure which objectives we were working on and why they were important. We may also have been frustrated by having several concurrent partial assignments to different tasks and different managers. Chances are more than fair that these tasks/managers were not aligned. Thus we may have ended up with conflicting requirements on our work effort, no clear prioritization and a significant overload of work. That does not even take into consideration the significant loss of efficiency in having to switch between different work assignments, without one of these assignments first being finished.

This scenario is generally not helped by our poor ability to make estimates of required work effort. No doubt we tend to be much too optimistic based on an inert belief that we can accomplish things. This belief in our capabilities is important, as otherwise we would give up before we even began. However, when making estimates on tasks with which we have little or no prior experience, we should build in a substantial buffer to account for setbacks and surprises, because they are sure to come. Estimates and deadlines need to be realistic for the exercise to have any positive effect.


To make others want to perform the tasks we assign to them, it is essential that we ourselves model the right kind of behavior. If we cannot ourselves deliver to the degree that we ask others to deliver, we should not be too surprised to find in others less interest and less commitment to doing an outstanding job. Cutting corners and avoiding matters is not advisable as such behavior tends to spread like wildfire.

As a manager and indeed in any role, it is important to be able to separate the “merely” urgent work from the truly important work. Both in terms of our own tasks, but also in terms of the tasks that we choose to delegate to others. We should not accept the loud, repeated insistence of others as the correct indication of what is important. We should look at how well the request fits with our role and our purpose. Requests that do not fit, should be declined and the requester encouraged to find a more appropriate way of fulfilling his request.

A work environment characterized by professionalism, discipline in the positive meaning of the word and relevant flexibility in task execution is very likely to bring greater satisfaction all round. Letting people organize their work themselves, allowing for people to work when and where they are most effective, will more likely than not heighten commitment and motivation. In many lines of business gone are the days of 9-5 and a dedicated desk in an office. Many people have discovered the advantages of working from home and partly outside traditional office hours.


Being new to a management role can bring with it a lot of questions and situations not encountered before in our years as contributors. Knowing how much our own behaviors and integrity count is immensely important. Knowing how to create the best possible conditions and remove pressures from teams and from ourselves will open up space for us to grow the team members and ourselves and achieve worthwhile results.

Feel inspired? Have ideas? Need to launch initiatives? Get in touch with NT Management Consulting today. Please use the contact form.