Men on Top!!

What has been evident since the economic crash that it was men who peopled the ‘top’ positions in the banks, financial institutions and property development companies. Men at the top are also a feature of the front bench (and the back benches) of the present government and of the oppositional parties.  Of course, this phenomenon of male predominance is blaringly apparent in the Catholic Church.  What is now clear that these male leaders have not done a good job -  cover ups, arrogance, superiority, avarice, greed, recklessness, unethical practices, depersonalisation of staff members and clients, bullying, addiction to success, profits before people, unrelenting pressures to meet unrealistic targets are just some of the behaviours that were and are still being exhibited.  It was inevitable that capitalism without heart, without regard for people and that made the rich richer and the poor poorer was going to fail; the problem was that those few mature voices that predicted the crash were aggressively ignored.

There are critical questions to be asked: how is it that we are rearing and educating males to be such poor leaders and managers?  Do we seriously need to question putting men at the helm of our major political, financial, educational, health and religious organisations?

Would we be better putting women into these positions of power?  The answer to the latter question is that there is no guarantee that women will do any better.  After all maturity is not a gender issue, it is a human one.  Furthermore, the male managers and leaders of today have been reared and educated primarily by women.  Women still do 90 per cent of the parenting of children and primary school education is largely in the hands of female teachers (over 90 per cent) and female teachers are outnumbering male teachers by approximately three to one in second-level education.  All pre-schools are run by women.  These statistics beg the question: how is it that women who have so much power in those crucial formative years of children’s lives are not influencing both male and female children to become mature managers?  There is no attempt here to put the responsibility for the present economic, religious, social and health service crises solely on the shoulders of women.  After all no matter what happens to us as children, as adults the matter is in our own hands and it is the responsibility of each of us to resolve any emotional baggage we are carrying from past experiences.  Notoriously, males resist this essential self-exploration and have cleverly consigned such mature reflection and consequent action to the ‘soft skills’ bin.  However, if truth be told, the responsibility for each male manager to occupy both the head and heart of their individuality is the hardest challenge for them to take on – not at all a ‘soft’ ride.   However, it is imperative that they do because management without heart is not management at all; effective management is both a head and a heart phenomenon and not a series of mechanical tasks that many managers believe it to be.

Given that parents are the first managers and teachers are the second managers children encounter, it would appear to me that preparation and training for these key management positions need to be urgently reviewed.  The experience of many children and students is the pressure to academically perform, intense competitiveness, anonymity, verbal threats, punishment of failure, over-rewarding of success and intensity around examinations and examination results.  Secondary schools, in particular, are target-fixated and look to leaving certificate points as their main criterion for evaluating the school’s effectiveness. Yet education is no index of maturity, neither is gender nor age and, certainly, status and wealth are no indicators of maturity.  When we view what happens in homes and classrooms the immature behaviours that brought about the recession are not much different. What is also now clear is that the policy of education for jobs has not worked; what needs to emerge is an education for individual maturity.  Is it then any wonder that the males on top turned out to be such a flop.  The worrying fact is that most of our current mangers and leaders continue to occupy these top positions and why oh why do we believe that they have changed their spots?  A relentless examination of their attitudes and actions is called for and I do not see the investigation into the banks carrying out such an in-depth analysis.  The challenge is to find mature individuals to conduct such an investigation. The examination has to be focussed on individual managers because it was not the banks or financial institutions or FAS or the Government or the Catholic Church that perpetrated neglect – it was individuals.  I am not suggesting a witch-hunt, but I am concerned that the defensive emotional processes that ran through the veins of our top people be closely examined and that each of these individuals be supported to resolve these serious block to emotional, social and economic prosperity.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author and International Speaker. He is also Director of UCC Courses on Communication, Parent Mentoring and Relationship Studies. His book The Mature Manager is currently available.