What makes a great manager?
That question has seemingly launched more books than dating and cooking…combined! Fifty years ago, you just hoped your boss had competence and character (with some latitude on character depending on their numbers). Now, you watch Mad Men and wonder, ‘how did Don Draper ever get away with that?’
Times have changed. Terms like “transparency,” “engagement,” and “authenticity” govern today’s business lexicon. And managers are expected to be coaches, savants, masseuses, and peacekeepers, who can soothe spirits with an empathetic smile and an open mind. In trying to be everything for everyone, managers have turned into a punchline at best…and a pejorative at worst. As a result, professionals strive to be a “leader.” Too often, they interpret the role as guarding ‘culture,’ ‘empowering’ others (i.e. delegating responsibilities), and speaking out with ‘candor’ and ‘courage.’ But their cult of personality wears thin once employees get a glimpse behind the curtain.
Manager or leader: How you define these terms is the Rorschach test of our times. There’s no formula for what constitutes an effective boss. For some, good bosses get their hands dirty in the trenches. Others respond to a visionary who holds them accountable for achieving audacious goals. Who doesn’t appreciate someone who shields their people from the distractions and naysayers?
NEW MOOCS FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP
Yes, we’ve all heard that leadership skills are innate? ‘You either have it or you don’t,’ people say. These days, the prevailing opinion among scholars is that you can develop these skills. In February, you’ll find a number of MOOC courses that will help students do just that.
For starters, the London Business School is launching “Managing the Company of the Future.” Taught by Julian Birkinshaw, ranked among the world’s top management thinkers and researchers, this course examines both contemporary management structures (hierarchies and bureaucracies) and alterative models like collective wisdom and obliquity.
In a recent interview with the London Connection, Birkinshaw explained that he covers four classic management principles and four alternatives in his MOOC, with the intent of showing students how to “get the best out of the old model while also subscribing to, and drawing inspiration from, the new model.” As a result, students get the best of both worlds in this course. They are exposed to tried-and-true methods of motivating staff, making decisions, and setting goals. However, Birkinshaw also arms them with examples of unconventional approaches that may be applicable to their own situations. “[There is] a recognition that there are better ways of working,” Birkinshaw tells the London Connection, “but a reluctance to try them because there aren’t that many good role models out there.”
In the end, Blinkshaw centers his course around people, not theory, and how structure and best practices can forge stronger buy-in among employees. “If we can make our organisations leaner, more customer-focused, then all else being equal that’s actually going to help employees to become more engaged, as chances are they’re more wrapped up in tasks which are valuable and which are directly related to creating value.” Can’t argue with that logic.
And that course is just one option. Wharton’s Stewart Friedman (another top 50 thinker) returns with “Better Leader, Richer Life,” which shows how improving as a father, husband, and neighbor can make you a better leader (and vice versa). Another popular course, Case Western’s “Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence,” helps leaders develop the self-awareness needed to combat stress and deepen work relationships. And let’s not forget Catalyst’s “Inclusive Leadership Training,” where participants produce a long-term leadership plan for themselves.
FINANCE AND 3-D PRINTING HEADLINE OVER 30 COURSES IN FEBRUARY
If you’re a quant, you’ll find plenty of fare. Columbia University is launching “Finance Engineering and Risk Management,” designed to make price derivative and asset allocation models more understandable in the financial collapse’s wake. The University of Michigan’s Gautam Kaul returns with another incarnation of his wildly popular “Introduction to Finance” course, which has drawn over a half-million students (to date). And Cornell’s Erik Simanis revisits his ‘Financial Sustainability for Social Enterprise’ MOOC, which provides a roadmap for ramping a startup company or nonprofit.
And here’s an interesting take: Deloitte is coming out with a course on additive manufacturing, which delivers an inside look at the process and risk-reward of using of 3-D printing. And if that’s not enough, you’ll also find courses on social impact, design thinking, business communication, entrepreneurship, international business, and branding in February.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.
FINANCE ENGINEERING AND RISK MANAGEMENT (PARTS 1 AND 2) / SELF-PACED / COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY