Bedtime Stories for Managers | Henry Mintzberg

Summary of: Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell, Lofty Leadership . . . Welcome, Engaging Management
By: Henry Mintzberg


Step down from the managerial podium and join the orchestra with ‘Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell, Lofty Leadership. . . Welcome, Engaging Management,’ by Henry Mintzberg. In the pages ahead, readers will discover the key ingredients to becoming an engaged manager that truly makes a difference. Learn the importance of working across networks, fostering organic strategies, and valuing good judgment above hierarchy. Gain insights into intriguing organizational personas and the importance of communityship. Finally, challenge the traditional metrics of success and learn how you can create a more sustainable and healthier business in an ever-changing world.

Engaged Managers

Managers should step down from a podium of control and focus on grounded engagement with their teams. An engaged manager fosters strategies that grow organically from the employees and focuses on good judgment based on the proper context. CEOs should hire or promote managers based on how they treat their people, not just on their business sense. Good managers don’t focus solely on the bottom line but treat staff members with respect and engage with them in person instead of relying on emails. Being a manager is demanding and hectic but engagement and respect make a huge difference in creating a thriving work environment.

Grounded Engagement

Rather than relying on a top-down “hothouse model” strategy for cultivating good ideas in an organization, the author proposes giving all employees the resources and capacity to make good decisions. By doing so, the entire organization becomes a fertile garden for strategies to grow organically through learning and recognition of successes. This nonlinear approach, called “grounded engagement,” optimizes everyone’s contributions and ensures the best ideas proliferate naturally. Ultimately, good strategies are not made through planning but rather through empowering individuals at all levels of an organization.

The Cow and the Organization

The book emphasizes the importance of communityship in organizations, where leadership is embedded rather than centralized. The author compares a cow to an organization, stating that an organization should function as a living organism rather than a programmed machine. The author identifies four different personas that organizations can take on, and suggests that managers should operate across a web rather than being trapped in a specific hierarchy. The book advocates for shaking up the traditional org chart by fostering more democratic meetings and diverse board members. The author believes that organizations should value innovation and communityship over efficiency and top-down leadership.

The Limitations of Hard Data

The book argues that measurements don’t tell the whole story about a company’s performance or an individual’s well-being. Nobel Prize-winning economists favor efficiency, but it ignores intangible values, which are crucial. For health care, the industry claims efficiency is paramount, but it’s deteriorating. Hard data can be useful, but it can also be unreliable and lose nuance when manipulated too much or interpreted too narrowly. The book encourages leaders to use a more holistic approach when evaluating performance, particularly for managers, by assessing them in context and how they contribute to their team’s and organization’s effectiveness.

The Dark Side of MBA Education

Many CEOs of major corporations are MBA graduates, but studies show that they tend to focus on short-term gains and personal compensation. This is because MBA programs focus too much on case studies and not enough on experience. CEOs with MBAs are also more likely to rely on consultants and short-term deals rather than trusting insiders who know the business better. This corrupts business and society, leading to long-term declines in the market value of their firms. The idea that leadership is separate from management and superior to it has also been bad for both. The solution is to focus more on experience and less on case studies in MBA programs.

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