Book review: Managing People in a Downturn

Emma De Vita reviews the new book by psychologist Adrian Furnham

Managing People in a Downturn
Managing People in a Downturn

A collection of essays, diatribes and thought pieces, this book by the psychologist Adrian Furnham covers issues that every manager faces at work, and which become more acute when the pressure is on. From the disaffected worker and the gaffe-prone chief executive to "dysfunctional credentialism", this makes interesting reading for anyone in charge of people.

Take, for example, the chapter on servant leadership - the leaders serving the people they manage. They should focus on the complex and changing needs of the people they lead, Furnham explains. "They are there to facilitate individual personal growth and, hopefully, keep an eye on the bottom line." Servant leaders are supposedly effective because they meet the needs of their followers, who therefore reach their full potential. The primary task of such leaders should be to make those below them healthier, wiser and more autonomous.

Furnham weighs up this theory: it could be either "a corrective pendulum serving against autocratic, hierarchical leadership, or impractical, sentimental tosh likely to bankrupt an organisation". Maybe leaders should be neither masters nor servants but somewhere in between.

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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