The fields of management and leadership are full of simple schemes and classifications for understanding how people and processes tick. These can be a useful tool to turn to when planning change or when there is problem that is difficult to put a finger on. They provide concepts and vocabulary to help us explain problems to one another and find solutions together.
I encountered a new leadership concept this week…
Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the Commander-in-Chief of the WW2 German Army, had a fascinating system for classifying his officers.
“I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”
This system is amusing for its frank, perhaps outdated, description of most workers as stupid and the image it conjures of that much mocked workplace character – the “little Hitler”. We all recognise that person who enthusiastically applies rules and regulation without proper judgement or understanding of the systemic harm they are doing.
However, I think it is too reductionist, rigid (and rude) for the modern workplace.
Working as a GP in the esteemed but overstretched british national institution which is the modern NHS can be tough at times. I felt this a little more than usual last week having just returned from my summer holiday in the artificial bubble and pinnacle of one of America’s own national institutions – Disney World – the “happiest place on earth”.
Since beginning this blog, I’m always on the lookout for innovative ideas. Free association of unrelated concepts is a great source of inspiration. So I kept my iPhone in hand to jot down any thoughts that might help improve life and care within General Practice or the wider NHS.
A. Work hard, to achieve success, then feel happy.
The A-Level student knows they will be happy when they get into Medical School. The medical student will be happy when they graduate. The foundation doctor wants a good specialist training place. The specialist trainee will be happy when they complete training and find a permanent job. The GP/Consultant thinks they will be happy when they have saved enough money for early retirement….
Delayed gratification is certainly an essential part of the toolkit needed to achieve success. But, like me, you have probably learnt that there is more to actually being happy.
The obvious problem with the approach above is that happiness is all too often replaced by the next challenge. It is always in the future, when where we live is the present.
Evidence from the field of behavioural psychology suggests that this conventional wisdom about how to find happiness has even deeper flaws. And that the relationship between work, success and happiness is more complex than our instinctive, socially conditioned first thoughts might imply.
Shawn Achor, a Harvard Lecturer and psychologist, suggests in his book “The Happiness Advantage”, that the relationship between work, success and happiness actually runs in the opposite directions.
“People are smarter, more effective and resilient when they are happy”