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A fairly popular belief concerning management, held largely by nonmanagers, would-be managers, and some newly appointed inexperienced managers, appears to be the belief that anyone can do it. It would seem as though one need only put one's mind to the task and simply begin managing.


Part of the anyone-can-do-it attitude seems founded on the belief that anyone who is skilled and experienced in a particular line of work should automatically be able to manage at least within that line of work and perhaps related and even unrelated activities as well. After all, as the successful cook might reason, "I am a skilled chef, extremely knowledgeable of the field, so who else is better suited to manage the restaurant?" Perhaps the physician might reason, "As a skilled medical practitioner, am I not also well suited to manage the medical center?" And how many successful police officers do not think of themselves as someday, preferably sooner than later, being sergeants or lieutenants or holding other leadership positions?


The anyone-can-do-it attitude is both common and understandable. It is also dead wrong. Yet few people who have successfully cooked, practiced medicine, or solved crimes would automatically rule themselves out as managers in their chosen fields. And not many of those chefs, physicians, or police officers, when asked if they could manage the restaurant, the medical center, or the police department, are likely to be so self-doubting as to say "no." Even the least confident might respond with, "I don't know-I haven't tried." A great many of those chefs, physicians, and police officers will simply deliver a confident "yes" when asked about managing their own specialties.


Remaining for a moment longer with the 3 specialties of chef, physician, and police officer, consider a question relating closely to the specialty of each: can you make a Yorkshire pudding, remove an appendix, or solve a burglary? With few exceptions, the only credible "yes" will come from these 3 specialists. Someone of an entirely different background would not likely be able to answer an honest "yes" to the foregoing question, but many people involved in these and numerous other occupations would and readily do say "yes" when asked if they can manage.


We surely do not take the anyone-can-do-it attitude toward any special activity that requires some recognizable degree of skill, education, and training. Why then do we take the anyone-can-do-it attitude toward management?


Perhaps the attitude developed because management does not stand well with many as an occupational field in its own right. You can be a specialist of some kind-perhaps chef, physician, nurse, account, laboratory technologist, or whatever-without being a manager and without being concerned with management at all except in the very limited sense as it applies to the "management" of your own time, talents, and resources. However, you cannot very well be a manager without having some kind of activity to manage. Certainly, in most first-line management positions, you cannot be a manager without considerable working knowledge of the activities falling within your charge, and most of this knowledge comes from your own training and experience in performing the activities you are subsequently expected to manage.


It is through active management practice, often neither easy nor especially pleasant, that we learn the fallacy of the anyone-can-do-it attitude. We learn also that we may have been trapped by the fallacy simply because our organizations made most of us into managers without benefit of any special preparation. We have all seen and appreciated the time we spent and the special education we acquired in the process of entering our working specialties. Not because we have also seen the time and preparation involved in moving into management-often as little time it takes to decide on and announce a promotion, and no preparation beyond that-can we be blamed for gravitating toward the anyone-can-do-it attitude?


It is surely not true that just anyone can manage. But it is generally true that many managers are expected to fill an important role with minimal or no preparation for doing so. Some work organizations do make continuing management education available, but most of this occurs after promotion to management, not before, and much of what we do receive is inappropriately targeted, giving us "processes" such as planning and delegation and the like, when what we need most are people-management skills.


Management is a true second career for the manager, a career that in most instances he or she "prepares" for by way of on-the-job, self-directed training. The manager who believes this statement will be in a natural, receptive learning mode and will thus be in a position to learn from all that happens on the job or related to the job in any way.


This issue (26:3, July-September 2007) contains the following articles for the manager's enlightenment and personal continuing education.


* "A Comparative Analysis of the United Kingdom and the United States Health Care Systems" explores the similarities and differences between the National Health Insurance System of the United Kingdom and the various approaches of the United States in addressing the health care needs of Americans.


* "Employee Recruitment: Using Behavioral Assessments as an Employee Selection Tool" suggests that employee retention concerns actually begin before the hiring process starts and that the use of behavioral assessments in interviewing can aid in the selection of appropriate staff who are more likely to remain.


* "Can Private Markets Provide Professional Liability Insurance Coverage?" examines some of the problems attendant on the provision of professional liability coverage and suggests that perhaps the private market should be abandoned in favor of public programs to provide compensation for medical injury victims.


* "Eliminating Health Disparities: Understanding This Important Phenomenon" addresses the challenge to health care of the broadening diversity of the population through the examination of the disparities affecting 2 primary minority groups.


* "Transformational Leadership in Health Care Today" addresses the need for today's health care organizations to evaluate individual nurse managers and promote transformational leadership qualities in them to achieve improved patient satisfaction and improved staff satisfaction and retention.


* "Personality and Job Satisfaction in the Public Health Sector" reports on the results of a study addressing personalities and job satisfaction among public health workers to determine if public health work is satisfying to individuals of certain personality types.


* Case in Health Care Management: "The Inherited Problem" asks the reader to consider what should be done by a newly appointed supervisor who finds that an apparent problem employee may be presenting problems at least in part because of the actions and inactions of the previous supervisor.


* "Ethics: The Evidence of Leadership" suggests that an organization's survivability may depend on leadership that has values grounded in ethical principles and that in today's health care organizations there is insufficient emphasis on a culture of ethics within the organization and within the behavior of leadership.


* "Diversity and Cultural Competence in Health Care Organizations: Hallmarks of Success" recommends a systems approach to diversity training interventions wherein training remains a key component of an organization's strategic approach to organizational performance.


* "Is the Quality of Hospital Care a Function of Leadership?" reports on a study using multiple regression analysis to evaluate the relationship between hospital quality and independent variables of interest and provides an innovative approach to measuring health care cost and quality as the government attempts to realign scarce resources to better serve local community needs.


* "The Leadership Contradiction: Examining Leadership's Mixed Motivations" suggests that individuals who seek leadership positions do so for a variety of reasons, many of which are self-centered in nature, and that one's stated reasons for doing so are frequently at variance with the reasons that can be inferred from leadership behavior.