A well-meaning guide on leadership

Book: Managing people: secrets to leading for new managers

Book: Managing people: secrets to leading for new managers

Author: Barry Silverstein

Publishers: Collins

Reviewer: Victor Mecoamere

Managing fellow human beings is a complex task if you approach leadership with rose-coloured glasses. And this book sensitises prospective helmsmen with the first few questions in its preface:

"How do you hire people? How do you encourage them to do a better job? What do you say to them if they do not? How do you fire someone who refuses to cooperate? How do you get your staff on board at a time of major change, or crisis?"

One of the affirmations by Peter Drucker, to back up some of Silverstein's theories, says: "The task of management is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant."

To that, some sceptics might say: "That is touchy-feely talk straight from a fairytale-like team-building series of team-building affirmations, which sound nice the first time you hear them, but fade into distant memory just when you have to implement them."

Most people like to think that when you are a manager, what you say goes, no second opinion counts, consultation has no room and that motivating staff is unnecessary because, after all, people offer a service and management rewards this with hard cash.

But Silverstein argues that managing people is not like managing things or projects. He says each person has unique capabilities and talents, strengths and weaknesses - and feelings, so that helping each different person to greater performance or achievement heights might require different motivational strategies and tactics.

This is shown in chapters dealing with managing individuals, managing teams, managing projects, leadership and communication.

Sadly, management is a highly-pressured activity. Cool-headedness is the last thing most managers consider to muster. Most calm down, come to mother earth and treat others well, after many losses, failures and bittersweet life lessons.

Those who believe that workers are clods without feelings, let alone rights, ought to consider what Tom Markett, the author of You Can't Win A Fight With Your Boss, says: "If your staff are happy, you are doing your job. People don't often leave jobs they like. Treat people the right way and you will have disciples for life."

Such books are hard to fault. They mean well.