By Duane Boyce
When it comes to our relationships, both at home and at work, what we are is more important than what we know, or even what we do.
In a unit with about two hundred others, I was once supervised by a man who appeared to have all the skills of effective management: he communicated to us frequently and he seemed kind in his manner. But despite all this, it was obvious that he just did not like us. There was always the sense that he was being nice by sheer grit, that it was something required of him, but unnatural. The forced smiles, the soft-toned but sarcastic and impatient corrections, the labored sighs that accompanied his calls for improvement; all suggested a manager who felt forced to put up with people who were fundamentally unworthy of him.
Despite this manager’s strenuous efforts, his genuine feelings about us could not be hidden. We felt devalued by him. What he knew and even what he implemented in the way of sound management principles, were both less important to us than what he was, and how he fundamentally regarded us.
This process goes the other way, too, of course. A manager who genuinely values fellow workers and delights in helping them succeed has an influence that is equally contagious. Such a leader brings out the best of us, even if this leader is less “skillful” than another. What we respond to in managers has far less to do with their skill as managers than with their simple goodness as people. More important than our knowledge, our skills, or our education, is simply our goodness and our ability to see outside ourselves.