When Andrew Leigh first wrote 20 Ways to Manage Better in 1984, he had little clue that the book would last, in various forms, until the 21st century. In fact, he thought the book would be useful for little more than a year or two, because management styles and techniques change frequently. Fortunately for Leigh, though, his advice to managers has proved timeless enough to be “one of the oldest books of management that has survived.”
Leigh sat down and wrote 20 Ways to Manage Better after an already successful career managing thousands of employees. His goal was to write the book that he wished someone had handed to him when he first became a manager, and he believes the success of his book shows that he has accomplished just such a book.
Since 1984, the book has changed names at least twice and has gone through nearly 10 or 11 different variations, being updated and republished as times change. In 2009, Pearson released a revised version of the book as The Secrets of Success in Management: 20 Ways to Survive and Thrive. The latest variation of the book, The Essentials of Management, delves deep into providing managers with just what Leigh says they need: “Managers need simple ideas on how to manage better. Managers of all kinds need simple wisdom to manage better.”
Countless books have been written promising “quick tips” to better management, says Leigh, and he cautions against relying on those books for sound management advice. “A tip doesn’t work in isolation,” states Leigh. The key to becoming a successful manager is developing yourself as a manager, and “quick tips” don’t encourage long-term development.
Instead of promising tips, Leigh says that his book helps managers determine what the basic things are that they can do to succeed in management at an average job. Working on this theme of developing yourself as a manager, Leigh’s book points out that you need to work in three distinct areas of management: managing yourself, managing others, and managing the organization.
How can a management book stand the test of time, when management techniques change so frequently? When asked how his book has changed over the three decades since he first conceived of his management book, Leigh points out that he used to have a chapter specifically on delegation, but he no longer sets delegation aside. Instead, he explores various aspects of delegation throughout the book, and the idea that tips don’t work is also reflected in the way The Essentials of Management deals with the topic of delegation.
Far too many managers, Leigh points out, look at delegation simply as a way to get the work off their to-do list and onto someone else’s. Instead, Leigh says, delegation in management should be about reframing and answering the question, “How can I help develop this person?” Instead of focusing on clearing the task list for the day, a successful manager “is asking the question, ‘What would you learn if I assigned this to you?’”
As a new manager or a human resources professional helping to equip new managers for their expanded role in an organization, Leigh’s book promises to help develop their managerial skills to the next level, ensuring continued success of the manager, the managed, and the organization as a whole.