Book Review: The E-Myth Manager

The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn’t Work—and What to Do About It, by Michael E Gerber

As it happens, I read this book because of the recommendation of my supervisor, although I ended up picking a different book in the series than he had originally recommended (though he did want to switch, so this may not be the last book of this series that I review). Also, while I had the book on my desk (as I customarily read in my lunch and break time, which makes me seem at least a little bit antisocial to some of my coworkers, I would imagine), the president of the company I work for commented on what a great book I was reading. As I had not been familiar with the author or the idea of an e-myth manager (or anything else), I found this reply gratifying but a bit unusual.

In truth, this is a very excellent book, with a revolutionary (and entirely laudable) primary goal, but also with an unfortunate liability. The liability this book suffers from is its name. What is an e-myth manager? How does viewing one’s domain, whether as small as an individual’s work process, or as large as a massive division of a corporation, or even an entire company itself, as an entrepreneurial unit make someone with this view an e-myth manager? It is far simpler to explain what this book discusses as its guiding philosophy than it is to attempt to explain or justify its mystifying title. Fortunately, the contents of the book are far easier to understand than its title.

At its core, this book is one of those management books [1] that is written as an imaginary dialogue in order to demonstrate a particular philosophical approach (which goes back to Plato, at least). The first part of the book examines the death and dying of American management by looking at the myth of management (that people can be managed, because they can’t), the motivation of the manager (like most people in general, according to this book, managers are motivated by some combination of fear and greed, although this book does greatly value motivations like truth and a child-like inquisitiveness), and then seeks the reinvention of the task of manager by breaking it down into component parts, looking at the roles of the emperor (the lord of his domain), the manager (who seeks to implement the will of others), and the technician (whose skill at technical matters is often a source of personal and professional pride). This first section of the book ends in seeking to reconcile the vision of these positions, by allowing the person to focus both on the need to have an independent vision that one is responsible for and choose whether the institutions and organizations that one is a part of allow for that genuine and personal vision to be achieved.

This particular view of personal responsibility informs the rest of the book, as the author uses a fictional mid-level manager named “Jack” who starts out as a frustrated and frazzled manager and who ends up invigorated and full of passion and intention to demonstrate the need of managers to examine their primary aim (or purpose [2]), their strategic objective, their financial strategy, their organizational strategy, their management strategy, their people strategy, and their marketing strategy. As might be imagined, this is largely a book about strategy that works with very straightforward principles of taking responsibility for one’s domain, in seeking to inquire into the truth and reality of one’s situation, show an openness and inquisitiveness into others and their relationships, a commitment to integrity and sometimes painful self-examination, in seeking to build systems of best practices to depersonalize knowledge and allow it to spread to others, and recognizing that while people cannot be managed and effectively controlled, by setting a good example and encouraging others to take responsibility for themselves, one can motivate others to success [3].

Although this particular book is designed for managers, those who exist roughly in the middle of corporate hierarchies between the executives that inform and create a company’s culture and the front-level employees who carry out the work of a company, this particular book is of value to anyone who is ready to take responsibility for the course of their lives while simultaneously appreciating those who happen to be in their lives and valuing open and honest communication (over and over again this book speaks of the necessity to be committed to truth and honesty, a point that merits repetition). In short, this particular book can be viewed as an example of thoughtful and well-spoken self-help for managers, and an antidote to works of alchemical psychology that seek to coerce others into doing one’s will. In its overall approach, this book exhibits broad sympathies and similarities with the realistic but humane works of management like those by Vroom or Maslow or MacGregor that represent the best and most practical advice for leaders and managers, even if that advice is often difficult to follow because of our own fears and insecurities about those whom we lead and interact with.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/book-review-the-legend-of-the-monk-and-the-merchant/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/book-review-mans-search-for-meaning/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/on-the-wisdom-of-victor-vroom/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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11 Responses to Book Review: The E-Myth Manager

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