By Venansio Ahabwe
Mr. Naperi – the CEO – was deputised in office by Mr. Sobando, a very humble man. Sobando had been in that office long before Naperi was promoted to the more senior level. As he was already closest to the top position in the company, Sobando had been expected to seek promotion to become the CEO but he did not apply for the job. He was even not bothered when Naperi, his junior, was elevated to the coveted position. Sobando was senior to his new supervisor both in experience and age. However, he never allowed seniority to get to his head or affect how he interacted with his workmates. He respected everyone and worked at the company much longer, having been recruited alongside the CEO who was succeeded by Naperi.
He was very supportive to the junior staff and also cooperated well with his supervisor. He was a peacemaker and always a rallying point for the staff who felt stressed. He was humorous and approachable, therefore easy to interact with. Owing to his character, staff nicknamed him ‘The Confessor’. Anyone who faced challenges within the company would confidently seek his counsel, like a penitent in quest of absolution from a priest. His word was trusted. While the staff liked their current CEO as much as the previous one, they would never complain if Sobando was occupying that office. If there was an item to move, Sobando would not rely on the office messenger. He would carry the item to the desired place. He was always among volunteers to organise office events. He believed that all the available work had to be done, irrespective of who did it. The company retained a cleaning firm but Sobando could never wait for the cleaners if he felt his office floor, desk or cabinet deserved urgent cleaning.
The humble man was so popular that he was different things to different people. To the junior staff, he was a source of inspiration. They felt valued by him. To his superiors, he was a loyal worker. To the peers in senior management, he was a challenge because they were constantly judged against him. At the same time, he was a shock absorber as he sensed and resolved tensions before they could escalate. To the stressed staff, he was a faithful, compassionate counsellor.
There are two types of managers: one who carries the office around all the time; so that everyone can see. Most times, he will not hesitate to alert others about who he is and what authority he wields. He might give unnecessary instructions to staff or take undesirable, even overbearing decisions purposely to demonstrate authority. He can order people around, demand to be addressed in particular ways, proclaim his personal principles, or at times disrupt certain processes intentionally to prove his supremacy. He derives fulfilment from being recognised, respected or feared. This behaviour is a result of a complex problem, which the manager strives to cover up by ‘being tough’.
Sometimes, he puts a distance between him and his staff. He is a bully of sorts, happy to catch staff in the wrong, quick to criticise and slow to praise. He can even frustrate his staff deliberately to show that they are not good enough. Another manager is the humble one, like Sobando, who acts and behaves as though he is not aware of his authority. He is generally fair-minded, cares about the needs of staff, and praises them for good work even if they are paid for it. He cares for their interests and is happy to improve the environment in which they work. He can easily admit that some staff are better than him in certain fields thus he allows them to do their work.
On the other hand, one should be aware of the flaws associated with humble people. Many times, a humble manager is not innovative, fears change, hates controversy, is eager to avoid trouble, and can be stressed in times of crisis. Thus, he tries to comply with company policies most of the time and is reluctant to push the frontiers or assert himself. This hides his leadership skills and, hence, he can easily be bypassed for opportunities.
Perhaps, this is why Sobando, who was deputy CEO could not be promoted to the next level. He stripped himself of all the airs of a company top executive to show that greatness is not attained through sheer display of superiority but rather by assuming a meek disposition. He sacrificed his ego in order to make it easy for talented staff to feel valued and to apply maximum energy to their work. In this way, staff win as a team, along with their manager.
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