Managing to Lead

You could, I suppose, call Reg Garters “Kiwi character”. In management training and education circles he’s one of the long distance runners. Garters has headed the Canterbury division of the New Zealand Institute of Management for the past 30 years.
That’s time enough to capture wealth of experience and compile truck load of anecdotes all of which he’s drawn on to compile his 260 page book, Managing to Lead: Making common sense common practice. The book was launched late last month (February) in Christchurch, Garters’ home town, by National Party leader Jenny Shipley.
Managing to Lead is, as Hubbards Foods founder Dick Hubbard points out in the foreword, about the “caring and sharing style of management”, style of management of which Garters and Hubbard are strenuous advocates.
If peer endorsement is anything to go by, this book already has blue chip line-up of champions. Australian behavioural scientist and management sage Wilfred Jarvis, Warehouse Group CEO Stephen Tindall, South Island entrepreneur and Snowy Peak founder Peri Drysdale, and 1995 Management/NZIM Young Executive of the Year Phil Routhan, have all turned out with words of praise. His text is, they say, “compelling”, “practical”, “inspirational” and “common-sense approach to leadership and management”.
Even the construction of the book is practical. It comprises 52 concise “read-one-a-week” chapters designed to remind those with management responsibilities of “some principles and techniques that are fundamental to efficiency and productivity”. It covers everything from time management to motivation, from coping with change to developing vision, from peer review techniques to just-in-time employment practices – the whole gamut of the managerial repertoire.
Mid range and aspiring Kiwi managers are likely to lap this book up. It is an easy to access reference and inspiration text rather than treatise to be consumed in one sitting. And it doesn’t expound the virtues of any currently popular management theory, unless of course you consider Garters’ heavily “humanist” approach to management fad rather than timeless formula for success.
Managing to Lead is rather more book of short stories with the thread of common theme – treat people right and they’ll do right by you, and that includes understanding yourself. “It’s book about the thousands of people I have met, including myself, over the years,” he says. His meetings with himself are frequent and sometimes illuminating. It is book about personal successes and failures and the lessons Garters believes can be drawn from them.
Reg Garters has pitched his book to help managers cope with the stresses and strains of managing and leading in our oftentimes whirlwind world. In his last chapter he suggests acting bit “like tree”. Trees, he observes, bend or break in variety of situations. Like trees, leaders “should do their very best but not put up resistance in vain”. There is, he says, third option to our genetically programmed options of “flight or fight”. The word is “float”.
One proponent of the art was the late Sir Robert Muldoon. According to Garters he asked the ebullient Prime Minister how he managed worry. There were only two things to remember about worry Muldoon quipped. “Only worry about the real big things,” he volunteered. “So what’s the other thing?” asked Garters. “Nothing’s that big” responded the PM with wry smile.
Garters’ book while long on examples is, unfortunately, short on editing. good editing job would have made an enormous difference without detracting from the essence of the message. That said, many practising managers will sift number of pearls from its pages. I doubt the shortcomings of the editing of this book will, however, stop those bound to buy it from doing so.

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