This commentary was published in The Gulf News on 15/05/2011
Forget all that you've been taught in those management books about management and leadership. The reality is that for the most part leadership is an inborn trait, and along the way a variety of skills are honed to fine tune the art of governing within defined parameters. In the GCC, and Saudi Arabia to be more specific, the spectrum that governs rules of management is often vast, wide and uncertain.
Be they Saudis or expatriates, bosses here may not be necessarily qualified for their posts and vary dramatically in their approach to problem-solving or dealing with their staff. In the next few paragraphs, I will endeavour to describe some real-life bad bosses that have been reported to me, and chances are that if you are a boss, you may fall into one such category. Or you could be one of the unfortunate souls who work for them!
Taha, the barbarian: His is a violent and intimidating style of management. Through his belligerency in getting his point across, he sows fear into his subordinates. He thinks nothing of publicly vilifying his staff to cover up for his own failures, and can resort to violence if necessary. His goal is not only to lead, but to mentally torment his subordinates into submission. He occasionally carries this streak of violence into his home.
Andrew Jackson, the achiever: He thinks he can do it all, and wants to be the company's ‘golden boy.' If something needs to be done right, why he is there. His staff picks up on this compulsion and feed his ego. They hold back from acting on their own. They remain muted while he wrestles the limelight. After all, his is the right way, the only way. Their personal loyalty to him overshadows the needs of the corporation, and soon enough Jackson believes that the only wisdom is the one that flows through him. In that it could be nothing more than a pile of manure totally escapes him.
Retaining his power
Chakoo Khan, the devious one: Divide and rule is what drives this person. He can smile and offer his staff words of encouragement as they sit across from him... But once their backs are turned, he springs into action. Turning one subordinate against the other is his means of retaining his powers. After all, with everybody else in a state of turmoil and conflict, his is the only concept that will remain. His real goal is to hold on to his seat for as long as he can.
Durrani, the nice guy: He comes off as a sympathiser. He reassures his staff that he doesn't agree with all those rules and regulations so unpleasant or unreasonable to them. He conveniently passes the buck to those up in headquarters.
Maintaining camaraderie among his crew is far more important to him than solving their problems, and he may even offer them a cup of coffee as they enter into a tirade about some wrong-doing or injustice. He will appease his staff, but in reality solves nothing. After all, why rock the boat?
George, the bureaucrat: This one loves his job. He is most likely a civil servant, and loves all those company manuals on rules and regulations that he constantly refers to, yet invariably interprets incorrectly. In dealing with his staff, he utilises only those corporate guidelines that happen not to favour them. His principal aim is to acquire a larger office, a bigger desk and an additional telephone.
A stack of newspapers lies on his desk that he takes home with him at the end of the day. The demands on him are few. After all, he can always tell a hopeful subordinate to come back the next day or the next week for that matter.
Rahul, the brown nose: His type as a rule is by far the most prevalent. A boot- licker, he thinks nothing of sacrificing his subordinates in his efforts to please his own boss. He will throw his staff to the sharks right or wrong, just to please his superiors. He thanks his existence on the generosity of his bosses and expects his subordinates to do the same. His urgency and level of activity feverishly increases in the presence of his superior, where he can be spotted preparing a cup of tea or arranging a seat for his boss.
Ali, the schizophrenic: Everybody is out to get him. He is in a constant state of paranoia, perceives his staff and others around him as threats. A simple ‘hello' to him may be taken as the seeds of a conspiratorial act. He usually keeps a box of medication in his desk drawer, something he constantly indulges in. The curtains and door to his office are usually shut for fear of drawing unnecessary attention. His staff rarely gets to know him or gets anything done through him. He could be the owner's son.
Pity the person who upon reading this column comes to the realisation that his superior falls under one of the categories mentioned.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.