Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 20 'Success Syndromes for Certain Failures?'

'Leaders lead people by creating circles of influence and value, whereas Managers manage work, create circles of power and count value’.
………Vineet Nayar

In my 38 years of experience, I had always been a ‘soldier’ who grew from the ranks, from beginning as a ‘Ledger Keeper’ and to finally rise as a ‘Managing Director’ (salaried though) and worked under, along with and above Managers, of different types.

I had to shift jobs several times, (thus empowering my CV enough to become a nightmare for any evaluating HR Executive) and in the process, had to work and interact with over a dozen bosses. Though the choice of an organisation could be mine, the choice of colleagues or bosses could not be.

I had to encounter a variety of bosses, colleagues and subordinates in the management, on the line et al., nationally and internationally too, that left me with such experience that is now culminating into writing this blog, dwelling a bit on those types of Managers, their styles and syndromes (patterns).

But before I embarked on this task, I trawled the internet to understand if any more type of managers are added to the subject of Management, other than the traditional Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-faire types, taught to me.

Some Regular Types of Managers

Music Think Tank
Steve. W. Martin (HBR)
Too busy to call you back-(Man)ager
Name Dropper
Drama Llama
Dad or Mom-(Man)ager
Micro Managers


Over Confidents

Management By Walking Around


Asian Paternalistic

I was gratified to note that though there were some additional types, most of them inevitably were the traditional categories, albeit a change in the nomenclature and thus leaving me, to bring in my own types, with considerable comfort.

Now, be my guest, as I take you through some of the ‘Success Syndromes’ of the managers and employees I had the dis / pleasure to work with.

‘Babushka / Matryoshka Doll syndrome’

Most Managers, I came across, suffer from this syndrome and in turn, the organisation also suffers.

As they are not always leaders, they want to oversee everything like a ‘Big Brother is Watching’ and this gives them the feeling that they need to employ people who are less qualified, or smaller in stature than themselves.

Thus they get to indulge in nepotism, and prefer to hire incapable nincompoops, who may not even suit the job, just by virtue of the servitude abilities of the hired. Eventually, these Managers would be forced to hire more people to compensate the incapability of others and making everybody accountable for everything.

They would not like to place thorough systems and processes in place. Instead they would create a powerless team putting wrong people in leadership positions, rendering them to be more ornamental than functional. These powerless team members also would be frequently changed; as the managers suffering this syndrome think that a person who is good for one work should be good for others too.

These are the managers who would not have heard about David Ogilvy (considered the father of advertising) or do not care for what he said, even if they had heard of him.

Images - courtesy Google Search 

{“When you are appointed to head an office in the Ogilvy & Mather chain, I send you one of these Russian dolls. Inside the smallest, you will find this message. If each of us hire people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants}

………David Mackenzie Ogilvy (1911-1999)}

‘Blowing the Cover syndrome’ ©

Weak that they are, these managers necessarily rely on the office gossip and intelligence provided regularly by the ‘trustworthy’ side-kicks, like clock-work, but at the time of reckoning, throws them to the wolves, blowing their cover. After this, the ‘intelligent’ people cannot work anymore with their teams, as they will be perennially suspected.

Cul-de-Sac syndrome’ ©

These are the managers for whom all sort of communication is one-sided - only from them. Once they have finished their spiel, they clam up and try as you may, become unapproachable. It is like the dead-end streets.

‘Duck-n-Drive syndrome’ ©

Those of the middle level managers, who are sandwiched between senior management and line staff, develop an antenna for trouble and carefully navigate between danger and safety. It is an art itself but much time is wasted in the ‘ducking and driving’.

‘Hearing Aide syndrome’ ©

Managers who listen to only those whom they think they trust as ‘aides’ suffer from this syndrome.

‘Instant Coffee syndrome’ ©

The Managers who want all solutions and results instantaneously and keep chasing every second and in the process only help in delaying the work. They want everything that minute - instantly.

‘Mobile Management syndrome’ ©

These are the managers who are literally wedded / welded to their mobile phones. They do not need to know all the functions of the mobile. They just need to speak - anytime they want to. These are the Managers who never hesitate (I suspect they could even revel in the idea) to disturb others. They, nonchalantly, enter others’ privacy at all times. No office hours, no weekends, and no holidays or vacations. They simply have to unburden themselves, even for trivial matters.

I was lucky enough to get a boss who never cared where I was or what I was doing. All I had to do is listen, note and act. Very often these calls used to land while I was praying or driving or sometimes even while in the toilet. But no sir, no excuse, no let up. My prayers did not seem to have had any effect at all.

(This might sound unbelievable for the overseas readers, but it is indeed true that most of the managers swear by this practice - If you are employed, you have to be ready for all eventualities, appears to be their notion)

‘Prairie Fire syndrome’ ©

These Managers, unwittingly or sometimes deliberately, create troubles and spend considerable time in finding solutions to the troubles. In the case of the real prairie fires, the eco-system benefits ultimately, but in the corporate ‘fires’ only the Manager may benefit assuming that the trouble started could be contained.

‘Rag doll syndrome’ ©

These are the Managers who are quite childish.

As children, who are enamoured by a new doll, dump the old rag doll, these Managers also think that any new member into the team will be a messiah and can do miracles! So all attention / assistance is driven / given on to the new member. The earlier ‘aide’ is dumped un-noticed.

There would be occasions, later, when the Manager realises (at own peril) that the new member is not dear ‘Arnie’ or 'Sly' and tries to seek out the ‘old rag doll’ now dumped on to garbage. By which time the old ‘doll’ gets mauled and may not be really productive any more, as earlier.

‘Toilet Seat syndrome’ © 

This is the most interesting syndrome.

When we sit on the ‘pot’ in the toilet every day, doing our business and relaxing, we become creative and get seemingly good ideas (This could be nauseating and distressing for a few, but the truth remains that a lot of creative ideas do generate here). The Manager suffering from this syndrome makes mental notes of such ideas and, soon after reaching office or if it cannot wait, would instruct the team members, even over phone, to dump whatever they were doing earlier, and take up this new idea.

Now the problem is, the ‘pot’ is used almost every day (we trust) and thus giving room for creative ideas every day. Yes, now you guessed it. The Manager rushes to office with new ideas every day and literally creates chaos and no work takes place, really, with frequent changes in directions. It is like a train trying to go forward and backward at the same time. Only noise is created and energies wasted, but not an inch is gained.

‘Used Condom syndrome’ ©

Many a time, Managers use their subordinates and colleagues for dirty jobs and once the purpose is served, throw them off as used condoms after the orgy is over.

We see these types of Managers in droves in the recent decades.

If we note carefully, many a time these syndromes usually culminate with the Autocratic Managers, however benevolent they may appear to be.

And assume, for a minute, what happens if one Manager has to suffer from one or more of these syndromes. At least a few Managers I came across were a combination of four or five of these syndromes and a couple of them with all.

Dear readers, who might be tempted to think of these as exaggerations may kindly note and be assured that not even an iota is exaggerated, and all these have been experienced / suffered / tolerated / protested upon by me, in my professional voyage.

This also does not mean that I did not work with good people and Managers. I did work with several good people also, but as is nature’s law, we always to tend to remember more of the bad. 

Readers may also be interested in knowing, as a Top Manager, what type of a syndrome I suffer from. While I guess I can diagnose the same reasonably unbiased, I am of the firm opinion that my colleagues would be better entitled to have a say on that and should be given an opportunity for that  – even if it has to be for my obituary. :-)

So, with such ‘Success Mantras’ one should only be braced for ‘Certain Failures’ we think; right? But, now let me share that, most organisations where I worked and which have such ‘Leaders’ and ‘Managers’ are still doing quite well, but sadly a couple of organisations, which had the right and very good processes and systems, and Managers who were more democratic and the right teams, had folded down.

Call this the ‘Law of Destiny’ or one of those ‘Laws of Murphy’?

One reason for this, I found, is that the rest of the employees / team members get used to these syndromes and tantrums and learn to tolerate and live with them (Duck n Drive). After all, they too need a job and are as insecure as the Managers.

What do you think? You tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India


  1. I am sure u had names in your mind when u went on to write on each leadership style. How did u invent opt names for these leaders?

    Ur english is as good as truths in ur blog. I enjoyed.

    Success happens not because of any great people; it is question of being in the business at the right time in the right place. Business succeed; people get names.
    If ur luck has gone to f***, u would not be there.

    Keep writing.

    With warm regards

  2. Yes, dear Logs. And thank you for the kind words. Coming from you I know that they are more than normal compliments :-) Most obliged.

  3. Interesting blog read.Very helpful.

  4. Thank you so much for your encouraging and kind words Mr. Narasimhan :-)