A term to characterize the micromanager.
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Something has been bothering me lately in management and, until now, I have had trouble coming up with a term or expression to describe it. It has to do with how nonprofits are run. I presume you already know I hold nothing but contempt for micromanagement, where a superior directs the activities of his subordinates to the sublime degree. Instead of treating people like the responsible professionals they are, we prefer to treat them like cattle instead.
I have been in many different nonprofit groups, everything from professional societies for management and technology, to sports groups, fraternal organizations, school groups, and home owner associations. In all instances, it seems a “Tin Horn” somehow rises up through the ranks and assumes control of the group. It’s not because they are gifted in management, most certainly are not, but they happen to have some free time on their hands, and having never done anything of substance in life, becomes the Attila the Hun of the group.
I call them “Tin Horn” leaders as they are contemptible people who pretend to have the guile and skills necessary to manage an organization. With rare exception, most do not. Instead, their style of management is based on pacifying their ego, not the wants and needs of their constituents. Control is of utmost importance to them as they want to exert unbending rule over people, something they never held in their professional life. They do this in the hope of receiving personal accolades, not the group overall. Yet, when things turn sour, as they inevitably do, they are quick to blame others, not themselves.
I have seen this phenomenon in fraternities, a variety of groups, even garden clubs. More recently, we are witnessing this is the Republican and Democratic parties where the “establishment” is being challenged by their constituents, thereby forcing a cultural revolution within the parties. Some people suggest it is time to start a new third party. My answer is, “how would this be any different?” Inevitably, a Tin Horn would emerge and take charge, and will try to micromanage everything to death. In other words, a new political party won’t solve anything, it will just make the same mistakes.
I am often asked by people at nonprofits why attendance is diminishing and why the constituents are becoming apathetic. It’s simple, you have lost touch with the people who now believe their advice or skills mean nothing to management. Why participate if the leaders do not want to hear your input?
Such management arrogance means you do not believe your workers are intelligent to accomplish the work, and lack motivation and professionalism. And understand this, your workers are not fools and will recognize your disdain for them immediately. A real turn off.
Ideally, the leader of any group should offer direction, train the staff, set the tone for getting the job done, and get out of the way. It is essential to allow his subordinates to perform the work to the best of their ability thereby encouraging participation. If you want to breed leaders for the future of your organization, it is essential you allow them to participate.
The delineation between Tin Horn and real manager is exemplified in an old movie I recently watched, “Zulu” (1964). The movie told the historical story of a small British detachment consisting of 150 soldiers faced with fighting a massive Zulu army of 4,000 warriors in Africa in 1879. There were two lieutenants vying for command, one (Michael Caine) who liked the pomp and circumstance of being an English officer, and another (Stanley Baker) as a results oriented engineer. Fortunately, the engineer assumed command and turned a bloody defeat into a surprising victory. Today, we have too many managers who prefer pomp and circumstance over results.
In addition to Tin Horns in nonprofits, we also see Tin Horn parents; what we refer to today as “helicopter parents” who constantly monitor their siblings even when they are away at school, and hold their hand in job interviews. This is simply obnoxious and detrimental to the maturation process of the young person. It is one thing for a young person to request advice and assistance, quite another when the parent constantly tells them what to do.
One last note, the only thing worse than a Tin Horn manager in a nonprofit, is a Tin Horn manager in a commercial enterprise. It is simply dehumanizing and counterproductive.
Keep the Faith!