By Rose Matthews
When I graduated, I was ready to take on the world. Many years of case competitions, running student organizations, and coordinating events for hundreds of students had officially groomed me into a future leader of the business world. Or so I thought.
9 months later, I found myself seated across from a livid member of senior management. My crime was proclaiming myself as a “leader” of a small group that dedicated to creating training modules. The project had been approved by management months prior.
Oddly enough, none of my actual team members were offended by this distinction. The aggressor before me had approached me out of her own accord. Perhaps in her mind, the conversation was some form of professional mentorship or intervention to aid a young employee veering off course. Regardless of her intentions, the actual execution of this “conversation” seemed hostile and dramatic.
The manager glowered at me and demanded to know what I had done to justify such a title. Earlier, I had already explained to her that I had assembled the team myself after getting permission from other members of management, but these facts did not seem to register. I tried a different approach by calmly explaining that I set meeting agendas, delegated tasks, and followed up on tasks to ensure that everything was completed in a timely manner.
She scowled and exclaimed, “That is not being a leader! That is a PMO role!”
I stared at her dumbfounded. Shaking her head, she continued, “Knowledge makes you a leader. Trust the system. You can become a leader over time.”
She called me arrogant and claimed that using the term “leader” was a form of “overselling” myself. Just to throw in another jab, she called me “superficial.” This personal barrage lasted for nearly an hour.
Later, via a google search, I found out that “PMO” stands for “Project Management Operator.” I had not realized that a “project manager” was different from being a “leader.”
That day I learned that corporate politics can be a savage jungle. Titles matter. Status matters. People who do not abide by unspoken social norms will inevitably fail.
That day also inspired me to create this blog, the Corporate Jungle. While struggling to navigate the business environment, I stumbled upon an overwhelming number of websites dedicated to giving professional guidance. However, online “advice” typically reads like a rule book rather than acting as an actual source of assistance. These websites describe what to do, but fail to reveal why.
This blog is designed to flip this conventional method of professional guidance on its head. Each article will feature a story from my life or the lives successful business professionals from around the world. Ultimately, I hope that these tales will help you to become a master at navigating through the corporate jungle on your path to becoming a true business leader.
Rose Matthews, Founder of CorporateJungle.org.