Micromanaging and Playwriting

Last week I read an essay by Philip Slater, who was a sociology professor and leadership expert (cowriting a book with Warren Bennis) until leaving the corporate world to write plays and be involved in the theater. In his essay, he makes a great point about management:

"Inexperienced playwrights often want to direct their own plays so they can make sure everything conforms to their vision. The result is usually sterile and often disastrous... I tell playwriting students never to write stage directions that tell an actor how to do or say something, since it limits the actor's options and encourages phony gestures. A good actor, I tell them, will have a dozen ways of creating the effect you want - ways you haven't thought of - and will choose the one most natural and the one that most powerfully express that vision.

The head of an organization is in the same position as the playwright. If the leader's vision is clearly articulated it will be most effectively realized by others who share it, and bring their own creativity to it. Any attempt to control and direct their input will reduce its quality."

I think this is brilliant insight.

The most important roles of the manager are (1) finding the right people for the role, and (2) clearly communicating ends.

When those two roles are done well, the manager doesn't have to concern himself much with means at all.


jwhughes said...

I suggest that a third important function of a good manager is to be sure that the staff has the tools to carry out the task to reach the result communicated.