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The perils of passionless management

Could it be that the chances of improving services rest not on how much the organisation’s managers know, but rather how much they care?

Managers at interview used to describe themselves as passionate, “passionate about the job”. It became a bit of a cliche something people felt obliged to say when asked to describe themselves as a manager. These days managers are not so much passionate as comfortably numb.

Passion was  short hand for,”I care”.  How much I care will be shown in the energy and enthusiasm I bring to the role and task. It will be reflected in my optimistic outlook about the challenges ahead. Describing one’s self as passionate about the job was away of saying to the interview panel that your motivation come from within, you were not driven by money, status or ambition but by making services better ( of course you expected to be appropriately rewarded and you were ambitious but there was more to you).

Today a manager is less likely to describe themselves as passionate. To some recruiters passionate might indicate idealistic, inflexible, challenging. All that zeal may be a bit too much to handle. Plus the job has changed, budget cuts, redundancies, the need to do more with less, introducing new working practices with less favourable terms and conditions requires a resolute realist, a pragmatist rather than an idealist. You simply don’t need to be passionate about the job to be an effective manager, to get what needs to be done, done.
I can hear a cynical colleague advising a young newly appointed ambitious manager to toughen up and care less if they want to survive. After all the boss doesn’t want a manager, however good/ popular, who is always threatening to resign on principle.
Todays managers want to be seen as committed and loyal to the organisation, not to feel strongly about anything but be flexible, adaptable and to use a the modern management jargon be “agile”.
Only I don’t believe that this is true. I think to be an effective manager you do have to be passionate about the job. It might have become devalued by over use in management interviews but passion is what separates managers. How much an individual cares will determine, how compassionate they are, how focused they are on the mental health and well being of team members, how serious they are about EDI, how committed they are to improving services.
Such a manager is better equipped to help the organisation deal with the post Covid hangover, the skills shortage and the challenge of employee retention. And if a manager who cares is on occasions more challenging to manage, and I am not sure they are,  then the organisation is more than compensated by the improved chances of success.

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