# 349: Management, Emotion, and the University


Corrigan, Paul (1999). Shakespeare on Management: Leadership Lessons for Today’s Managers, 22.

Story behind the Passage

I really wonder why it is that there is so little passion among university folks. I mean, not in general, they become passionate when they talk about their research. But they are hardly ever passionate personalities in the sense of filling a room; like most senior managers are. I remember when I first read about Mary Parker Follett and her fascination with managers. She was not a manager herself but she was drawn to them because of the energy in the room. And I immediately recognized myself and my own passion when I get to do stuff that is engaging and involves quick decision making and implementation.

Shakespeare on Management talks about what the most famous poet in history can teach you about getting central topics of management. Basically, you can find many similar books which all make you learn what some artist, athlete, or even explorer teaches about management. As with any truth, most of these things — all of them — have been said before by other people in other books. Still, you can always learn something, even and especially by means of repetition. And this thing about emotions, management, and the lack of leadership passion in universities is just something that I cannot get rid of in my head. When I am among non-managers, ‘cold people, the atmosphere sucks all energy out of me. The conversations are tedious and long and just do not feel right, not even talking about the low level of results.

My Learnings

“Building a compelling case — to really deliver a quality product, to double investment in research and development, to step out and take risks each day… is an emotional process as much as it is a rational one.” Corrigan is quoting Tom Peters here who is one of the people who did the In Search of Excellence study. And you know what, I so much agree. Yes, I understand how emotional control is a must in management as well. But my own experience is that this mostly applies to negative emotions. You should simply not respond whenever someone throws negative emotions at you. If you simply ignore them, real magic happens.

But with positivity, and I do not mean just positive moods but rather a positive and energetic attitude and presence, you do not have to hold back. Let it unfold within you and then you can spread it. I have no idea how this energy cannot exist in people that they appear so unemotional. And sorry to say this, yes, I admire big brains, but for Pete’s Sake how can it be that there is nothing that comes across? No excitement? No wow? No speed? No movement?

I am saying this as if someone could change it. As I know very well: You cannot. People who are “cold-bloods” will stay that way because their strengths are somewhere else. But if this is true, then we do have a problem because these people will never be able to become great managers in universities. And we need great managers there who are also excellent researchers. No, I am not expecting too much. I do think it is possible and necessary. But it might not be doable. I do not think you can replace that many people by bringing in people from outside. It would just as well ruin the instutions.

This is a dilemma that cannot be solved. It could only be alleviated if the non-emotional and non-passionate people were able to either acknowledge their lack of emotion and allow others on the same level in the hierarchy to do the job — TO GET THINGS DONE! Or, they could truly learn how to implement things and become passionate via acting. The latter issue, I think, is just my phantasy. So, the first scenario would be great. What is happening now, however, is nothing. That makes me so mad, despite all the emotional control I have learned, I just cannot believe it. How can two worlds, the world of management and the world of science and research be so far apart?

If the answer is personality, then there is little hope.

There is only the possibility that the smart people finally use their brain to see how inefficient they are making the system with their lack of managerial competence and leadership skills.

Please, dear presidents, tear down these ivory walls and let business people and researchers come together to learn from each other and rediscover the boosting effect of emotions again.

Reflection Questions

1) In which professions have you found the most passionate people so far?

2) Do you agree that successful management needs to include a certain level of emotions? Why/not?

3) According to which criteria did you choose your employers in the past?