Money Matters

The insecure manager

April 17, 2017
By Sirajuddin Aziz


Insecurities stem from a sense of danger that one is exposed to. It also emerges upon assumption of voluntary or involuntary, risk taking activities. Feeling of insecurity can surround in the simplest of things; walking alone on a deserted street, or looking for the switch in a dark room. To be ‘insecure’ there does not have to be a real reason.

The feeling can be self-inflicted by either imagination or sentiment of fear, that is inherent, in all living beings. The zebras move in a herd towards water streams or lakes, in the belief that the predator lion, will not attack, when they are together. A lonely zebra, is more insecure than a herd is. That’s a belief, not a reality. Watch any channel about animal kingdom, the lion attacks, whether the zebra is alone or in a herd; it targets only one; chases only one and upon over-powering, partakes of its meat only to the extent of its hunger. Later, as many zebras can pass by him, the lion will not attack, but the insecurity of the zebra doesn’t go away. This is inbuilt insecurity emanating from the inability to withstand the powerful.

Human kind, suffers from multiple insecurities, too. The insecurities take both visible and invisible format. Within this class there is that fine distinction between the visible and known and the most potent segment being, the invisible and the unknown.

Ignorance breeds insecurity. On the shop floor of any organisation, the lack of required and adequate, skill, knowledge and talent, in an individual can lead to him or her having feelings of insecurity. Alternatively, the possession of these skills and traits by other colleagues can also lead to insecurity – insecurity about losing job, assignment or even importance amongst, colleagues. A manager afflicted with this degenerative disease of insecurity is difficult to handle. Such managers, who pretend to mask their insecurities, do not realise that the more they hide their fears, the more apparent their inner persona becomes known to the workforce.

I have in my decades of experience come across, so many, brilliant people, who became shooting stars, for lack of ability or confidence to pass on to others their knowledge, talent and skill. These types of managers would only share the obvious and hide the vital, in their misbelieve that it will ensure and maintain their importance. By teaching half of what he knows, the insecure manager acquires in his view the status of a ‘guru’…. any problem, refer to guru, the Mr Know-all! I have also witnessed, many managers, who would not teach to their colleagues behind the well-constructed facade of ‘Private and Confidential’.

I had a supervisor, who would require of me to prepare a 17 column Liquidity Statement, but when it came to balancing and concluding it, by a permutation and combination of few items, he would take over from me and do it himself – and he never taught me how to arrive at its balancing; I learnt it the hard way. Upon protestation, he would say, it is “very confidential”; so, ‘am I not a member of this team?’ I would ask. He would shrug and smile, for he believed in this act lay his survival, as manager.

Have seen so many insecure managers –there was one who lost his marbles, when he was told by his coterie of Sycophants, that in his absence, a Management Trainee, had audaciously sat on his “chair” – His Exalted Highnesses Chair - a crime, a corporate blasphemy – the young officer was publicly ridiculed and consumed. We laughed at him (Manager) then, but today I wonder, if the manager mistakenly thought that his chair had a direct connection to 440 or 11,000 volts of ‘power supply’!

People tend not to take the first step, because of insecurity. To feel secure, managers must learn to abandon their lot to destiny. You cannot lower your boat, if your fear the current of the waves or even a storm. Insecurities are also created from personality limitations – the lack of command over language, the inability to converse in writing and verbally, with logic and confidence or to even not being able to articulate in a presentation, add on to the feelings of insecurity. It is the presence of ability in others that can also create insecurity. In an all-around absence of quality of skill and talent, there is never any fear or insecurity, lurking. Insecurities are born out of fatigue and loneliness; if you don’t share and keep everything to yourself.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, only those means of security are good lasting, that depend upon yourself and your own vision. Exercising extreme caution also sets in fear and insecurity. Every moment, where the manager’s mind seeks security or gratification in any form, at any level, there is bound to be fear.

Such insecurity emerges from fear that you as a supervisor would have been robbed of your inherent skill, talent and knowledge; if you were to share it with any colleague – nay the act of disseminating information and knowledge only enhances the mangers fund of knowledge. You get fresh and new insights and a dialogue actually sharpens the idea, thought and later action.

The issue is not to expunge fear but to harness the inner insecurities. The possession of insecurity impacts seriously upon innovation and on seeking new ways of doing things. Mention, business process re-engineering to the champions of the ‘order of status-quo’, you will see them tremble, at the thought of reviewing a process, designed a few decades back. Ask for a change, and their standard answer is, “……this is the way we have been doing for past 25 years”. Total refusal to change, because of insecurity, that a newer method, may steal them of their power and thunder. If as managers, you accept life, then accept, risk too.

No manager ever gains, without risking, for he who refuses to; he shall find himself at risking everything. No sailor remains ashore for reasons of sea storms or the attending dangers. Staying anchored in the harbour of a single assignment, is no job of any manager, worth his salt. It is all about being out in the market and open towards all.

All aspirations end-up in the casket of insecurity, if the manager fails to recognise them and address them. A good manager will endeavour to educate himself out of insecure feelings. Refuse to take calls from within of lurking insecurity. Instead seek security through insecurity, by discovering them, managing them, dismantling their foundations, and then see its impact upon your personality and your organisations progress. Plato had said you can forgive a child that fears darkness but how do you address and forgive the man, who fears light. As an initial step towards expulsion of inner inbuilt insecurities, get yourself as a supervisor, anonymously evaluated by your direct reports – the results may surprise you.

If you want to climb the corporate ladder, shun insecurity and prepare your succession and then please leave the rung for him; but you can only do so, if the person higher in hierarchy to you, will vacate his rung for you – boils down to culture of succession. An institution that is filled with “insecure managers” will have near to zero back-up or successors.

Embrace ‘disruption’ – the destruction of old and creation of new techniques and methods of doing business, efficiently and profitably.

Develop your own booklet of responsibility and start to delegate, piecemeal to others, you will in the process rid yourself with the fear of insecurity – only then you would have time to develop, do and learn new skills, adopt new managerial techniques and the most recent knowledge.

The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist