Magazine article Supervisory Management

A Worm's Eye View of Leadership

Magazine article Supervisory Management

A Worm's Eye View of Leadership

Article excerpt

A Worm's Eye View of Leadership

Dr. Seuss tells a story of a bear and a rabbit arguing over who is the best that has implications for today's managers. It seems the rabbit had challenged the bear's ego by claiming his hearing was so keen that he could hear a fly cough on top of a mountain more than 90 miles away. The bear, not to be outdone, took a quick sniff of the air and proudly reported that he could smell a hummingbird's egg that had just gone stale more than six hundred miles away.

But just before the argument became nasty, up pops a worm from his hole in the ground to put his furry friends in their place.

"Now boys,' said the worm, `you've been bragging a lot. You both think you're great. But I think you are not. You're not half as good as a fellow like me. You hear and you smell. But how far can you SEE? Now, I'm here to prove to you big boasting guys that your nose and your ears aren't as good as my eyes!'

"And the little old worm cocked his head to one side and he opened his eyes and he opened them wide. And they looked far away with a strange sort of state. As if they were burning two holes in the air. The eyes of that worm almost popped from his head. He stared half an hour till his eyelids got red. `That's enough!', growled the bear. `Tell the rabbit and me how far did you look and just what did you see?'

"Well, boys,' the worm answered, `that look that I took was a look that looked farther than you'll ever look! I looked `cross the ocean, `way out to Japan. For I can see farther than anyone can. There's no one on earth who has eyesight that's finer. I looked past Japan. Then I looked across China. I looked across Egypt; then took a quick glance across the two countries of Holland and France. Then I looked across England and, also, Brazil. But I didn't stop there. I looked much farther still.

"And I kept right on looking and looking until I'd looked `round the world and right back to this hill! And I saw on this hill, since my eyesight's so keen, the two biggest fools that have ever been seen! And the fools that I saw were none other than you, who seem to have nothing else better to do than sit here and argue who's better than who!"

"Then the little old worm gave his head a small jerk and he dived in his hole and went back to his work."

Overpowering ego

If it were not for the worm's poetic lesson, these two egocentric beasts may have continued their self-indulging debate to the point of deterring them from their duties of the forest.

As with the bear and rabbit, the same overpowering ego of some managers may be deterring them from succeeding as leaders. Egocentric managers must feel they are in control, and to remain in control, they try to dominate those around them. They believe they have all the answers and place little or no value in the synergistic process. Egocentrics feel threatened by the ideas of others and are quick to place blame when mistakes are made. They see things as either right or wrong, win or lose, and to protect their fragile egos, they do everything they can to win. For egocentric managers, the ends always justify the means.

For those who work for egocentric managers, life can be miserable. To survive, employees become skilled at feeding the manager's enormous ego with the information and compliments the manager wants to hear. Employees withhold bad news from the egocentric manager because of the manager's tendency to take frustration out on the innocent messenger. If employees wish to introduce a new idea, they must first spend time gaining the manager's support by making him or her feel it was his or her idea to begin with. …

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