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CORPORATE GOVERNANCE: Choosing your managers from those who are actors and those who can act!

Some may argue that those who can manage over others can direct, and those who can direct can facilitate exceptional performances.  Actors or actresses who win awards for their performances credit their directors for leading them in such a way, since very few of them can do both.  However, every so often, one unique individual arises to entice those who follow, with his or her unique talents and skills, so much as to portray both the ability to perform as an actor and to act as one who manages over it all.  The world revolves around human interaction, where in numerous different situations, people have to manage, mediate and lead over others.  Obviously those with perseverance find themselves developing into modern day managers.  From sports teams to international corporations, managers of all fields can be found, with the common link that “all these “managers” are vested with formal authority over an organizational unit”. (Mintzberg)  But those who can perform effectively in every situation, such that he or she would have to act as the most qualified person at the time; so much so that they are required to take on multiple roles as actors to lead their team or corporation through exceptional performances.  So how does one get technical on the attributes that compose a manager who acts through multiple roles in order to lead exceptional performances?  This article will look at exactly those attributes while focused on two executive managers from the past, Fred Henderson and Renn Zaphiropoulos, of two very different major corporations, and one typical retail store manager and owner, Maier Levy, believe it or not, my father!

A key element in the success of any firm is the depth and quality of senior personnel and, in particular, how well these key people are able to respond to change, seize new business opportunities, penetrate existing markets, maximize the use of available capital and create a responsive and enthusiastic team effort among all employees. (The Canadian Securities Institute)  Any more technical than the previous sentence would require a spreadsheet, thus one should try to break it down to practical levels.  Truly, just by reading all that one can never imagine what it takes to become a successful manager in addition to how does one teach management? (Mintzberg)  When thinking along the lines of what it takes to become a successful manager, one would have to consider some examples.

Fred Henderson, who was the Western Region’s general manager for Xerox, was not always under that position; he to started at the bottom and worked his way up.  One can be certain that if Fred were asked how his background facilitated his progress in the industry, he would surely mention his education as one factor.  Although one must note the prestigious experience Fred had, his education had given him the head start.  If he had no use for the technical aspects of his degrees, at least the attributes of time management could have been gained, as one notices Fred’s juggling of an MBA program in the evenings with a day job, during his career. (Fred Henderson)  Perhaps in Fred’s case his role and position would allow one to argue that his educational background played a small role in his success, when compared to his experience.  Simply because, if one would approach Fred, he or she would be able to tell a lot about his character just from his appearance.  Fred displayed himself with a very authoritative and capable nature, surely something he developed from his experiences in management.  If one were to look at the time line of Fred’s development as a manager, one would be able to see the evolution of his identity.  Such that, the transition from an inexperienced student with a flooded technical capability to a successively more talented and skillful manager.  One would also be able to notice the actions that Fred had taken in order to change himself into an actor who can place himself in multiple roles needed to attack problems and make decisions.  Further, when one now looks at Fred, one would notice that he has become a product of Xerox’s top management requirements.  For that, every action he does, every gesture he makes, the way he dresses, his interpersonal roles, his authoritative nature, leadership and monitoring capabilities and finally his decisive initiatives, are all a formulation of his many acting roles funnelled into the most fit character.  Now, if one wanted to further interpret what it takes to reach the level of management Fred has achieved, one would have to do all that he did, experience all that he did, and if he or she had the proper open frame of mind than perhaps one just might reach Fred’s level as a manager.  So how can one sum up what it takes to become a good manager?  One can’t!  Although Fred is the product of his industry, he is still unique which is why he worked for Xerox and no other company.  For Xerox, Fred is an invaluable manager, for the population of managers Fred is still very different from the one that eventually took his place.  One aspect is for certain, that is, no one reaches the demanding and high levels of management with out the proper experiences of all fields, including education (such as MBAs), primitive experiences (part-time jobs), full time jobs jumping from company to company, and finally, full time jobs where one is jumping from levels of authority.  Just think about it; if every CEO of a major corporation simply past down their title to their son or daughter when it came time to retire, where would that company’s integrity lie?

Along the levels of unique management experiences that contribute to the various types of managers through their talents and skills, comes the concept of a mangers unique interpretation of his or her challenging environment.  The reason why Fred is the type of manager he was then and why he acts the way he does, often contributing 65 hours a week of work is a result of his interpretation of what is required.  Not all managers contribute to their position as much as Fred did.  In fact, some managers contribute more and some contribute less, but yet they can all be good managers for their corporation.  Part of the attributes that make up a good manager is their ability to realize what is required of them in order to perform as efficiently and effectively as possible, such that, usually the outcomes could not have turned out any better.

One clear example of a comparable manager is Renn Zaphiropoulos, the founder and president of Versatec Inc.  Here we see an excellent example of how intrinsic qualities can develop a person who shows perseverance as an entrepreneur to broaden himself in the fields of management.  Coming from a science background in the field of physics and engineering, Renn, along with fellow colleagues, decided to venture together in the development of a fully integrated corporation, where management roles were assigned to those who felt best fit for that position.  Here Renn took on the role of president, although a much demanding role, Renn, developed his company to revolve around his abilities as a talented and skilful leader in that industry of technology.  Thus, by doing so, Renn created his own obligations and performance criteria for the company and those who work for the company.  In a way this made Renn’s job easier since his main goal was “to satisfy a need at a profit”. (Renn Zaphiropoulos)  Where in terms of managing performance, Renn, had divided it up between himself and his colleagues.  Already, one can see the difference in the dynamics that provided Renn with the intent to perform and develop his managerial qualities, than the factors that accelerated Fred’s development as a manager.  Most certainly, Renn’s interpersonal roles are based on communication and philosophical initiatives.  Where as Fred’s interpersonal roles are embedded in his authority and status, such that those who are below him are always reassured of what is expected of them and those who are above him know that Fred is aware of what is expected of him.  Further, where Fred feels he must create an atmosphere of tension in order to stress the importance of performance goals, Renn eases the tension in order to create a more communicative yet structured working environment.  However, in both cases Renn and Fred still illuminate their leadership roles, through their consistent initiatives to adhere to all problems with proper solutions.

Although managers definitely require a strong background in the technical aspects of the industry of their corporation, a lot of them attain this information through their time spent with the company.  Usually those types of managers have spent a great deal of time with that company before they achieved higher management positions (as opposed to middle management).  In these cases, managers, such as Fred, develop their managerial skills not with the intent to directly take part in the innovative technological growth of their goods and services, but more so along the lines of effective performance maintenance in order to assure the fundamentals are supportive in the progress of the company through all of it’s aspects (such as the innovative technological growth of goods and services).  However, some managers, such as Renn, actually developed themselves through their information databases in order to have the hands-on appeal as the company developer of innovative progression.  Renn developed Versatec Inc. with the required basis to design and develop their company’s goods, such that, he is directly involved and aware of the innovative advancement of his company’s technology.  This aspect alone, of informational roles, builds Renn’s dimensions as a resourceful and knowledgeable leader of that industry, making him fit in the eyes of his employees as a manager.  This role is a strong attribute to the development of a manager’s identity and status.  On the other hand Fred is renowned not for his broad technical knowledge in the field of his company’s goods and services, but for how he facilitates the continual distribution of required and privileged information to all those who he sees fit for the content of that information. (Mintzberg)

Perhaps the most delicate yet prestigious role of a good manager is their ability and authority to properly make decisions based on the solutions to their challenges.  Both Renn and Fred, distribute this quality throughout their contribution as managers.  Further, they both take on the initiatives to act out the role-playing involved in framing and re-framing all scenarios involved in dismantling a problem and providing the most effective yet efficient solution.  The final, yet very important difference between the attributes that make up the managerial qualities of Fred and Renn is their source of leadership.  Most may agree that Renn possesses intrinsic leadership qualities, so much so that one might argue that he is a “born leader”.  This argument can be based on the natural confidence in his character that is seen during his time as a manager for Versatec, and through what one would expect of the kind of nature one would need in order to take on the initiative role of president in the founding of one’s own company.  Where with Fred, one would argue that through his very elegant yet demanding status of authority, he had developed his leadership skills through his experiences with many role figures as he progressed through the organizational hierarchy of Xerox. (Kotter)

Finally, without further due, one must now briefly consider Maier Levy, the manager, president and founder of “Castle Fruit” fruit market.  The reason why someone must consider such a character in an article like this is because of his underlying connection and relevance, tying the attributes which compose both of the managerial skills of Fred and Renn.  Maier, like Renn, has the “born leadership” role in his nature through his initiative to found a business.  Further, his demanding character creates a high degree of tension in his working environment, in order to ensure proper performance by all those below him, as similarly done by Fred.  In addition, Maier came into the produce industry with a strong background both in the technical aspects of retail strategy and the informative knowledge in order to distribute produce variety and production demand for his inventory.  The former part of this managerial quality was seen in the attributes that developed Renn as a manager, while the latter part was seen in Fred’s attributes which developed him into a manager.  Further, Maier acts both as a top manager within the working environment, like Fred, and as a manager/president/founder, like Renn.  Finally, all three managers have successfully run their businesses for close to, if not over, 25 years.

More can be said on this comparison, but the main point had been maid clear.  That is, although all managers are unique in their multiple role playing as actors or actresses in order to properly act upon all challenges with effective and efficient solutions, (due to their background, experiences and intrinsic nature) the attributes which develop their managerial skills and talents are all commonly seen in various combinations that are aimed to the prestigious goal of exceptional performances by them and their company.  Managers are not created simply through education and experience; they are synthesized step by step through intrinsic and extrinsic influences related to their nature, education, experiences and corporation, such that they are capable to last as the survivors of the fittest managers for their position.  A point in thought to realize here, was that Maier Levy, immigrated to Canada with $400 in his pocket, no family and no help, although running a fruit store in Kensington Market, was probably just as qualified to found a major tech company or run a corporate conglomerate!