Technology has changed many things, making almost everything faster, easier, better and many more adjectives apply.
Also advances in technology have made many objects and processes obsolete. However, there are still things barely touched by technology and the most important of these is people leadership. The strong and consistent guidance for the workforce.
Throughout history the lighthouse has played a vital role in navigation at sea; its purpose to guide, to show the way, to warn of danger and generally to provide safe entry to harbours.
The line manager is the lighthouse for the team members in any organisation. Lighthouses do not shift positions; they stand firm and bright and can always be counted on to guide those looking to them for that purpose. What would happen if lighthouses moved; changed direction and occasionally turned their lights out? They could not be trusted, and condemned as a navigation aid. We concede that other tools have replaced the lighthouse or diminished the need for the lighthouse as we know it. Other tools now replace the lighthouse. So, it is not that the need for guidance no longer exists but only that there are now different ways to provide it.
As long as humans continue to do the work of the organisation the line manager must be the guidance device . . . the lighthouse.
The line manager must provide consistent guidance. In every aspect of the operation there must be clear and consistent management at all times. Management that must be based on integrity, respect, knowledge and principles; the type of management that every manager should practice.
The manager with integrity and respect for others will not say one thing and do another.
She/he will not forget that team-members – all team members, wherever they fit into the team – should be praised in public and disciplined in private. There are rewards and consequences and both should be consistently applied.
The manager with principles will not be diverted by whatever comes along. Decisions will not be made based on comfort or popularity. They will be made on principles because they understand that abandoning their principles leaves them open to distrust and uncertainty and, very likely, the failure that catches up with unprincipled managers.
Sometimes in the heat of battle, today’s high-pressure atmosphere, it is easy for team members to lose sight of goals and to go off course. The simple truth is that if there is no one to act as the lighthouse, or the light house is not stable, consistent and bright, the most important reason for it being there in the first place may just be forgotten. No organisation can afford to take this chance.
The advent of new technologies is designed to help the line manager but will never replace the basic principles of the “manager as lighthouse”.