The Science of Leading Men

What a Business Executive Must Do to Achieve the Fullest Measure of Success

GEO. H. SHEPARD June 1 1914

The Science of Leading Men

What a Business Executive Must Do to Achieve the Fullest Measure of Success

GEO. H. SHEPARD June 1 1914

The Science of Leading Men

What a Business Executive Must Do to Achieve the Fullest Measure of Success


This 8erics of efficiency articles, by Geo. II. Shepard, which started in the last issue of MacLean's Magazine, promises to be one of the most valuable features ever presented. Mr. Shepard is a prominent member of the Emerson Co., an organization built up around Harrington Emerson, the leading exponent of efficiency. Mr. Emerson haè done more to make efficiency the master word in business to-day than any other exponen t of the New Science. His teachings are being widely adopted and in the series of articles now being presented in MacLean 's, readers have an opportunity to acquire a close insight of the Emerson principles.

WE are the creatures of three things, heredity, environment, and will.

Someone has said that heredity is the ship, environment is the ocean, and the will is the navigator. The master of a sailing vessel on the Great Lakes cannot make the voyage of a North Atlantic ocean greyhound; but, within the limits of his landlocked waters, and at the speed of his own craft, he can sail what course he will.

The will can even powerfully modify the effects of heredity. Taking thirty-three years as the average difference of age between generations, a middle-aged person now living is the descendant of two hundred and fifty-six persons, who were living in the early part of the seventeenth century.

Every one of us has a vast variety of heredity, which must contain many counterbalancing elements. If we draw from the haughty noble, we draw also from the humble peasant; if from the hangman, also from Lady Bountiful; if from the village drunkard, also from the village parson; if from the town fool, also from the learned scholar.

The characters of these ancestors have come down to us and exist in us, but environment has brought some of them to the surface and presented them to the world as the character of the man of today. Other characters remain submerged, below the level of consciousness.

The will can select for development the strong, good and able qualities that one’s heredity has brought him and for continual repression and resulting atrophy, the weak and bad qualities. Such self-education is a long, slow, and always necessary process.

It is possible, under the influence of powerful emotion, of strong suggestion, or of a crisis in life, to make a revolutionary change, to transform the character, to turn down the inherited qualities hitherto manifest and to bring to the surface others not previously recognized. The wonderful reformations of character that have been produced by

religious conversion, show that it is possible to plow up one’s personality, to turn down the weeds on the surface and to expose fresh soil on which to grow a good crop; while the quick results of that intense psychic experience show that it should be sought for the strengthening of character.

Even as to one’s bodily infirmities, a strong will co-operating with personal hygiene under the guidance of a competent physician, and combined with careful study of methods by which one’s weaknesses may be spared and his strength brought into action, can accomplish much.

We have, of course, within limits the choice of our own environment.

As Gulick says, though we often speak of the will as something separate from ourselves, yet it is evident that one’s will is in fact, only himself acting.

It is then evident that, within limits, not only is one master of his course in life, but that even if he neither chooses nor builds his ship, he can greatly alter it, and that he has considerable choice of the waters that he is to navigate; in short, that, in great measure, one determines for himself what kind of a man he shall be.

Next to one’s own personality, that of

his assistants is of prime importance, especially that of his immediate lieutenants. Industrial managers conmonly fail to appreciate the importance of what is known to military men as the Chain of Command, and also lack of knowledge of how to use it. This can perhaps best be explained by quoting from a writer on military affairs: “It is obvious that a commander of a military force cannot deal personally and directly with all those under his command, but only with a limited number of subordinate commanders. Each of the latter in his turn conveys his will to his own subordinate, and this gradually broadening system, called the “Chain of Command” is carried on, till every individual of the force receives his orders. These orders are founded on the original directions of the Commander-in-Chief, with modifications and details added by each lower authority in the chain, so as to suit the special circumstances of his own command.” It therefore appears that an order received by any one below the immediate lieutenants of the Commander-in-Chief consists of two parts, the original command of the chief and those applications of it which are due to the officers intervening in the Chain of Command.

In issuing any order to his subordinates, an executive therefore has two problems, to make clear and unmistakable the essentials of the task; that is, to set before each of his own lieutenants, the proper main ideal; and to leave to every lieutenant opportunity to work out the amplifications necessary for his own force.

When the U.S.S. Oregon was coming around South America to reinforce the Atlantic fleet of the United States at the outbreak of the Spanish War, the Navy Department cabled long and detailed instructions to her commander, Captain Clark, at Rio de Janeiro. He replied, “I can bring the Oregon through. Please do not hamper me by instructions.”

Clark’s main ideal was to effect a junction with Sampson in West Indian

waters. That was properly set for him by the Navy Department. As to overcoming the difficulties that beset every moment of the voyage, that was properly left to the man who was in contact with them, and who knew more about them than any one in Washington possibly could. However, the lieutenant cannot successfully work out details, and the chief cannot therefore be sufficiently relieved of them, unless the former has both the necessary character and the necessary ability. Hence the great importance of correct selection of the lieutenant.

Selection of Lieutenants

Some men of great ability otherwise are notoriously poor judges of men, and seriously impair their work by bad selections of their associates.

It would unduly expand these articles to take up the work of employment experts and the claims of character analysts. Any one interested along those lines must be referred to the writers on those specialities.

An executive is, in any event, chiefly interested in the choice of his own immediate assistants. A person, to be considered at all for such a n assistantcy must already have made something of a record.

As Dean of an engineering college, I had very good success in the selection of new members of the faculty on the basis of their records alone, so that I know this method to be capable of practical application, where the positions are of enough importance to draw applicants of known records. The method chiefly fails, I believe, from lack of attention to three elements of the candidates’ records:


Physical capacity for work, and

Ability to deal with people.

I am speaking here of the executive who has to rely on himself for the selection of his associates. If the task is of enough magnitude to warrant the employment of expert advice, that is another matter.

In whatever way an incumbent may be selected for any position, his record therein should be a matter of interest and concern. The discussion which will follow on the principles of standards and of records will explain how the performance of any employee may be watched and judged.

It is a corollary to the Chain of Command that any executive must confine his personal attention to those essentials which he has to set before his immediate lieutenants as their tasks; to set them correctly, to keep informed of the progress of those lieutenants in achievement, to judge them accordingly, and to hold them to proper responsibility; to

give those lieutenants the backing of his own executive authority; constantly to recall them to adherence to his own ideals; and to co-ordinate the work of every one to that of all the others.

The Executive and Detail

Many executives fail from trying to give too close personal attention to details which should be left to their subordinates. In consequence they ieave un -done their own major tasks in the control and direction of those subordinates and a little failure in this respect much more than counterbalances a great deal of improvement in those details to which the chief may have given his personal attention.

At the same time it is usually neces-sary to keep subordinates braced up to their work by a certain amount of personal attention to details; but, as such attention must necessarily occur very seldom on any particuliar detail, it should if possible, come like a bolt out of a clear sky, unexpected and unforeseeable. If this can be accomplished, so that the personal attention of the chief is possible at any moment, he achieves something of

Grappling with New Conditions Conditions continually force upon the man in general management charge of

great demands on his time, so that his own proper duties are neglected in consequence.

In the main it is immeasurably better to rely upon proper standards and records, and upon discipline and efficiency reward based upon them.

A chief can not deal with his own immediate subordinates without close knowledge of their work and conditions. If a chief sets a task for a subordinate without positive knowledge that the task is feasible, he cannot hold the latter responsible for its achievement. If he tries to do it, either the subordinate will present excuses that he cannot penetrate; or, if he ignorantly takes a chance and gets rid of the subordinate, he merely delays the work, breaks up his organization, and is in no better fix with the successor.

work of which he has had no personal experience. An engineer rises through grades in which his duties have been purely technical, until he becomes a works manager, and suddenly finds himself responsible for an accounting department. A salesman rises to be sales manager, still dealing with problems of selling only; but merit there makes him general manager, and he at once finds himself in authority over manufacturing. Either may go on to be president of the company and become the superior of its treasurer. Besides this, progress is continually filling in behind and beneath a man processes and methods which were unknown, when he was at that stage of his development, and with which he has no longer time to acquaint himself in detail.

The only way to deal with this difficulty is by willingness to take advice, and not only that, but by diligently seeking it from competent counsel.

In earlier days a know-it-all attitude on the part of superiors, combined with resentment of advice, or even suggestion, was common. It seemed to be even expected and considered a part of their necessary dignity,

!but it has now been a long time : since I met a man

l of that kind in a j position of any • importance. The stress of present conditions has eliminated him.

It is a popular and unconscious joke to call the prevailing type of industrial organization military. On the contrary military organization offers to industry a solution of many problems, including this one.

Von Moltke introduced into the Prussian army staff as a supplement tc the line, and this organization has since become universal in military forces and is coming into use in industry.

The fundamentals of line organization are epitomized in the quotation cited on the Chain of Command. This chain extends through the staff, of course, as well as through the line.

The line comprises those people who are directly engaged in the production of results, the staff is auxiliary. To illustrate from the oldest organization, infantry, cavalry, and artillery are line; the rest of an army is staff. In industry three divisions of line are recognized, finance, sales, and manufacture; and the rest is staff.

Particular activities are sometimes difficult to assign; but the outline classification holds good.

The attribute of the line is authority, and its function is to achieve. The attribute of the staff is knowledge, and its function is to advise.

Staff organization is unfamiliar to most industrial managers, and they find it peculiarly difficult to get the idea of an important staff officer without authority, except over his own staff subordinates, the doctor over the nurse, the chief engineer over the designer and so on. ,

Action Rested with Captain

The following incident illustrates the relation between line and staff. A warship was in port, and the surgeon discovered that the water overboard was so contaminated with sewage that not even distillation made it safe for drinking. The ship made her drinking water by distillation of the sea water. The surgeon, a staff officer, had no authority to order the ship’s evaporating plant shut down and the crew furnished with other water to drink. His duty, which he did, was to report the facts to the captain. The responsibility was then fully upon the captain, the senior line officer. If military necessity had obliged the ship to remain in that position and no other supply of water had been available, it would have been the captain’s duty to disregard the doctor’s warning, and to expose himself and his ship’s company to the danger of the water, the same as to any other of the risks of the service; but, in so doing the responsibility would have been absolutely his, the mere making of the report had cleared the surgeon. As no such necessity existed, the captain ordered the evaporators shut down, and the ship supplied from on shore with water fit to drink. The shut down and the new supply were both by order of the captain, a line officer, not by that of the doctor, a member of the staff.

Battleships have fought and won victories with less loss of life than would probably have resulted, if the captain had not known that the drinking water was dangerous; and it was not reasonable to expect him to know it, except by providing him with a sanitary expert as a member of his staff and by requiring him to receive the advice of that expert and to give it due attention.

The commander of a naval vessel not only has under him as line, marines, seamen, and stokers; but he has as staff, paymaster, surgeon, and chaplain; that is, he is continually provided with expert business, medical, and humanistic advice. The commander of a naval station may add to these, naval constructor, civil engineer, mathematician, chemist, and experts in submarine work and in flying.

The industrial manager may need any or all these, and he is likely to need also the lawyer, the private detective, and others. No set rule can be given. The principle is to find what kind of export advice is needed, and then to provide the person to give it.

The “Committee System”

This does not mean that a small plant must have a lot of high-priced experts on its payroll. The principle of personnel must here be headed off by the principle of common sense. There are consult-

ing experts in all lines, who can be called in when they are wanted, just as one consults his lawyer, or his physician. The same man may be at once line head of a department and consulting expert to other members of the organization in matters of his own specialty. There is some use of this form of staff in the common “committee system.”

A committee may be needed, to provide competent counsel for some line officer. An example of this is found in a certain works, the sale of whose product is largely dependent upon its appearance. An officer of the sales department is charged with its design. He is advised by a committee consisting of the superintendent of the factory, the master mechanic, and the efficiency engineer. In this case the committee exercises staff functions only. It can advise the designer, but the authority over and responsibility for designs, rest upon him only.

On the other hand several persons, the work of each of whom is closely connected with that of several others, may be brought together into one committee, in order that they may work harmoniously. In another plant, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, the head of the maintenance department, the tool room foreman, the chief clerk of tool records, and the efficiency engineer are all greatly concerned with tool and machine problems. They are all organized as a tool committee, which holds frequent and regular meetings and devises the best means for tool and machine maintenance and repairs, designs, tool room records, and advises on tool room problems and general tool questions.

Whether such a committee as this should be staff to every one of its members, or whether it should have line authority over them, is a matter of expediency in every case. Before giving such a committee line authority over its members it must be seen that by so doing the several chains of command in which its members are links, will not be broken, and that the authority of its several members is not weakened, nor their responsibility divided.

Laughed at Carnegie

American iron masters laughed at Andrew Carnegie, when he first employed a chemist in his steel mills. No one would now think of operating such a plant without a chemical laboratory and a staff of chemists; but industries like tanneries and pulp and paper mills, which, quite as much as steel works, are industrial applications of chemistry, are trying to get along without chemical advice.

Beside the regular staff, there is a mine of usually undeveloped knowledge in every plant in the minds of the workers. The people who are right next to the job have a better knowledge of details than any one else can possibly have, and many of them have good ideas as to how improvements can be made.

In a certain plant which I was investigating, the general superintendent, with considerable pride, pointed out to me a man who was doing work which had

formerly required two men. Observing the man closely, I saw that he had reduced his operation to a few definite motions which he repeated again and again at great speed. An engineer would have felt some pride at having done that, and thereby having increased efficiency one hundred per cent.; but this workmar had done it unaided.

I later asked the foreman what the workman had got out of it. He replied, “He didn’t get anything at all out of it, until he kicked for a raise. Then we gave him a cent more an hour.” I remarked that it would have paid to raise him more than that. “Why so?” replied the foreman, “He can’t go anywhere else and get any more.”

That was perhaps true, but the stingy policy of that concern plugged up a source of revenue just as it was beginning to flow. The man who could effect that improvement was capable also of others, if he had been encouraged to make them.

As for the workman himself, he realizes every day that he is saving his employer nearly two dollars from the former cost of the job, and that all he is getting out of it is a beggarly ten cents a day which he had to wring from the boss by a demand. Is it to be expected that he will ever again try to make any improvement or save any money for that concern? Instead, it is exactly this kind of experience which has convinced so many workingmen that the only safe course for them is to produce as little as they can without losing their jobs.

The workman who made the improvement should have had a reward so substantial that he would have lain awake nights, trying to devise others. Not only he, but every other worker in the place would have been trying to make good suggestions, if only he had been treated fairly.

The Value of Suggestions

In the most efficient industrial concern with which I have ever come into contact, regular means are provided for every employee to make suggestions to the management. This is right. The office boy may know better than any one else how to keep the postage stamps from being stolen.

In this concern all suggestions go before a committee, and several cash prizes are awarded every month for the best suggestions made during that time. Not only that, but, if any employee of the grade of foreman or above goes for considerable time without making a suggestion, he gets from the general manager an inquiry as to whether he has gone to sleep.

In closing the discussion of personnel,

I would say that, in order for an executive to be efficient in the control of his subordinates, he must inspire in them respect, fear, and love.

Respect comes naturally with the office, but the man must hold it by showing himself worthy of it. He must do this by showing ability at his own task, by setting his subordinates an example of the

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moral qualities that he requires in them, and by treating them fairly.

An executive must have enough strength of character to convince his subordinates that he will not overlook wilful and persistent wrong doing or incompetence after reasonable instruction and opportunities to do better. It is necessary to temper justice with mercy, but the man who is incapable of administering needed punishment is himself hopelessly incompetent. It is probably unnecessary to say more, because competition will not allow him to rise high enough to come within range of these articles.

Love comes most slowly of all ; but must be won, if one is to be highly successful. In dealing with others, one must always remember that they are human and that their hours inside the office or the works are only a portion of their lives. Outside lies the world, with its poverty and crime, sickness and death, love and jealousy—life and its troubles.

Common ordinary civility from a superior to his subordinate will soon establish enough communication between them, so that either will know if the other is in trouble. Treat your clerk like a machine, and he will give you a machine’s service to the end of the connection. Treat him like a man, and you will find that he has a heart and is capable of loyalty and unselfish interest in your welfare.

Then, when one of your helpers is in trouble, be judiciously and promptly on the spot. A few hours off to the girl whom you see to be suffering with a headache, a private and confidential loan to the bookkeeper who has sickness in his family, a frank statement to a competitor of merit of an employee to whom you cannot give deserved advancement; these things tell. They will tell first on you. You will begin to like the people whom you befriend; and, if you never tried it before, you will be surprised to find how much you will enjoy it.

They will tell next on your employees. The girl will decline an invitation to a party in order to stay after hours and get out your rush correspondence; the bookkeeper will repay your loan and tell you where money is going to waste that you did not suspect; the man whom you recommended will decline a bigger salary with the competitor in order to stay with you. They will do these things because you have won their affection.

If not respected, you will receive hesitating and uncertain obedience; if not feared, you will be imposed upon; if not loved, you will receive only a grudging and compelled service. If respected, feared, and loved, you will be a real leader and commander of men; you will be like Nelson, whose mere presence was said to strepgthen the fleet as much as four ships of the line.