Recently I had an opportunity to meet some people working in big corporations. One of the things we discussed was role of leader/manager. They used the term “shit umbrella” to describe the role of such person. If you are unfamiliar with the term, here is the definition from urban dictionary:
It’s the unofficial title for the person/role above you at work, who takes the heat from management/owners.
This individual takes the shit, while the people below him/her are shielded from management’s crap, trouble, finger pointing, etc..
My view is different. While I agree with the idea of “protecting your people” I think that standing there with an umbrella is not good enough. There is more to be done. IMHO your task as a leader is to go up there and clean the mess so no more management’s crap happens again.
When I think about this, I think there are two major differences between me and my corpo colleagues. First of all, they perceive their organisation as something evil. Their teams, their departments are kind of surrounded by the armies of darkness (upper management) so it is only natural they want to defend their people. This is not my case – my organisation is not evil and there are no monsters outside my team’s room. I do not need to protect anyone.
Second, they do not believe they can change the way their organisation works. This thing is way too big, too rigid, too hierarchical (and has been like this for decades) to change anything. All they can do is to stand their ground and protect. And they do. They survive onslaught of stupid requests day after day. They are valiant and stubborn. On the contrary, my organisation is very small and it is still growing, evolving and changing every day. And we – me and all teammates – can influence the direction we grow. If we see bad things happen we can act and change them. This is how small size, trust and flat hierarchy (or almost no hierarchy at all) works.
So while I appreciate what my fellow corpo-leaders do for their teams, I wish they could do more for them.
All in all, lucky me. 🙂