Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Personal Retrospective: Five Leadership and Career Move Cases

June, 2013 marked 25 years since my university graduation day. Over the years I have encountered many cases of both exemplary and unacceptable leadership and management practices in Russia by both expat and native bosses. Here's a sampler of five memorable cases with what I hope could be useful takeaways for my colleagues in communications.

Listen to the Music and... Work
In the Gorbachev-era USSR it was a common practice for employees at government-funded research organizations to earn official salary during daytime and get some extra revenues in the after-hours by doing analytical work. The work was carried out, according to commercial contracts between the employer and other organizations, by those employees who wished to participate and could contribute to the result, . In such after-hours my boss's boss would turn on some music like soft jazz, etc. This music created a positive ambience and made it clear we were working for our own enjoyment. I still enjoy listening to good music whenever I can, at work and play.

So You Want to Become a Manager? Act Like One
That was the reply of my expat boss when I told him I was ready and willing to become a manager of a team in the marketing department. The point was clear. Leaders do make better managers. Managers don't necessarily become leaders.

Self Irony as Leadership Tool
My other expat boss used to tell me and other middle managers personal stories that were reminiscent of comedy sketches in the likes of Mr. Bean, Benny Hill, and movies with Louis de Funès. We really enjoyed those stories while our respect for the boss kept on growing. I now have my own set of self-ironic stories to share with my associates.

Terminology of Rigid Management
A major private Russian bank I worked at practiced a cynical form of Rotation (dispatch of a Moscow based manager to a lower grade position in a Russian region) and Negative Motivation (cuts of monthly or quarterly bonuses). I was not surprised to learn that my former boss was asked to leave the bank soon after my voluntary exit.

Getting Analytical With Your Boss
At another major Russian bank I would often give my late boss a lift in my car when we were going back home from work. He was a great analyst and I enjoyed engaging in all kinds of “what if” discussions with him. He was definitely more of a leader than just a boss. Eventually we came to a logical conclusion I would be better off working in a more public environment. Very soon I left for a higher grade and more visible position in another Russian company.