What is philosophy and is it important to managers and supervisors? For the purpose of this post, I will use the following definition of philosophy as our guide:
A: pursuit of wisdom
B: a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means
C: an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs
Based on the above definition we see that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom in order to gain a general understanding of values and reality. It is about analyzing the underlying fundamental beliefs of a system of thought.
As managers and supervisors, we need to understand the concepts of managing people and resources as well as the belief systems that surround these areas. Without this understanding, we are merely going through rote motions that may or may not lead to success. Without a deeper examination of our actions and the reactions of others, we cannot expect to enjoy any lasting success.
Most of us probably feel too busy and overwhelmed in our daily duties to give much thought to our beliefs regarding the philosophical underpinnings of what we do and why. But I think that if we are going to be successful in managing the people and resources entrusted to us we need to have at least a basic idea of what we believe is the best way to accomplish our work and measure that against the reality of what really works and what doesn’t.
In addition, we need to have a grounding in general management philosophy so we can take advantage of the best ideas that have been tried and tested. In the endeavor of human knowledge, no man, or woman, stands alone. As has been noted by others we truly stand on the shoulders of giants and we should take advantage of this inherited knowledge.
There are many schools of thought on the best way to manage and lead people including Robert K. Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits, and Jack Welch’s Welch Way among many others.
While reading about these different systems can give you new perspectives and tools to use they should only be used as guides to help you build your own personal management philosophy.
Because we are all different in how we think, interact with people, and view the world we each need to take in the knowledge around us and use it according to our own gifts and weaknesses to form a system of management that works for us and for the teams that we lead.
Coming to an understanding of what your management philosophy will be will require you to sit down and figure out what you believe, what your values are, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
As somebody who thinks deeply about management and writes on it frequently, I would suggest that you keep a journal or diary to write down your daily thoughts.
Take just 10-15 minutes a day. I recommend doing it at the end of the day after you have had time to process and absorb all that you have experienced in the day.
Think about what things went well and what things did not go well. Really think about the underlying causes. Identify what made things work and what did not.
You have to dig deep under the surface. Don’t stop with the first cause you come across. Look deeper to find what is under the surface. It is only when you dig deep that you will get to the truth or root cause.
Over time you will begin to see where you are being truly effective and where you are falling short. Once you start to identify patterns in your behavior you will be able to develop the fundamentals of a successful philosophy to managing people and resources based on your knowledge and experience.
Another thing I would strongly recommend is to identify what your core values are as a manager. How do you view your role in relation to your organization and the people you lead? Why did you get into management? What do you hope to achieve in your role as a manager or supervisor? How do you want the people you work with and lead to viewing you? What words would you like them to use when they describe you?
This exercise will help you to define what things are important to you. You can then use this discovery process as a starting point for creating your own management philosophy.
As the writer and philosopher Ayn Rand once said, “Philosophy provides man with a comprehensive view of life. In order to evaluate it properly, ask yourself what a given theory, if accepted, would do to a human life, starting with your own.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon, pg 361).
Philosophy is a comprehensive theory that helps you to understand the correct way to manage. It is about taking in the collective knowledge of others who have come before you and integrating it with your beliefs and experiences. It can help you to create a system that not only leads to your personal success but should also lead to the success and enrichment of everyone you interact with and lead.