I grew up with a diet of Chinese dramas about emperors and nobility or the martial arts world. Often, an emperor or noblemen travels incognito in their own territories. Or a martial arts expert who blends into the cityscape as just a beggar. Great and amazing people who turns up as ordinary. And that kind of being on the ground was actually celebrated, and seen as a positive form of leadership. It was something admirable.
Yet when I’m grown up we don’t seem to be taught to feel this way about being on the ground. Or about being management; there’s always images of cushy offices, well-stocked pantries, brainstorming rooms, being in meetings. Do MBA programmes teach their students how to be on the ground? Or even the benefits of all that?
We don’t hear such stories of management being on the ground in our modern day life often. The latest story I heard that is remotely similar is the CEO of Sheng Siong supermarkets going down to their Tanglin Halt branch to shelf food items when they were shorthanded. And he apparently does the ground work very often. There had been incredible stories about how Sheng Siong staff are cared for, and also care for one another. But if this was never a metric, why would the management bother? Shouldn’t we be challenged to consider being ‘on the ground’ as a metric or attribute leaders need to meet? As a culture, shouldn’t we redefine what good management should look like?