Friday, May 07, 2010

Can managers be both agreeable and successful?

In a recent article, Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, argued that the most successful business managers are disagreeable people. In his words: "Agreeable people are certainly more popular than disagreeable people. But agreeableness is not an asset in the boardroom, the courtroom or on the battlefield. Being competitive, critical and sceptical of others’ behaviour and motives works well for people in business. You have to be vigilant for the tricks of your competitors. Business is about survival of the fittest: it is not a gentleman’s game."

However, in my opinion, this is complete rubbish!  From a personal perspective, I remain close friends with several of the bosses I have worked extremely hard for in the past and I am still friends with many of the people who have worked for me.

If you are a good manager, friendship, kindness and appreciation are not traits that need to be confused with performance, efficiency and effectiveness.  But what are your views – do you think people work best for a bully or for someone they like?

Click here to read the full article on the Extensor website, or here to read the article by Professor Furnham.


  1. I was put in similiar position myself some years back when I was promoted to 'team manager' having been working alongside 16 other people who were friends/colleagues and was suddenly managing them! Good for my personal development - but was challenging at the time.

  2. I also got wound up by the article. Being agreeable does not necessarily mean being friends with an employee and confiding deepest secrets! You can still be firm, honest and fair, having a difficult conversation with a staff member, yet be agreeable in your style. My belief is that agreeable managers are the best managers provided, as you say in your article, that they can also manage – i.e. they don’t shy away from those challenging conversation. In the latest book from Gallup “Strengths Based Leadership”, which is also research based of course, the authors cite 4 needs that followers – aka employees - have. These are trust, stability, compassion and hope. I think these are pretty agreeable.