Leadership is not management
During my career I have heard people with aspirations to have larger influence on things in their workplace. It is a great thing to want to be involved, eager to have an impact and willingness to do what it takes to achieve it. However, that being said, along this desire comes a statement I don’t agree with. The statement is: “And in order to have that impact, I need to be promoted to a managerial position”.
Both parts of this claim are false, in my opinion. First, you don’t have to be a manager in order to have a huge impact in your workplace. Second, it is not a promotion.
Impact and Influence
If you are interested in having a lot of impact and influence, you don’t have to be a manager. Here is why: The way to influence is by being part of the decision making process, and the way to have an impact, is by doing an outstanding job. Neither of them has a management prerequisite.
For instance, Sara is an outstanding engineer. Every technical question in the workplace involves her, and she is being asked to share her voice and view point, you’d agree with me she has a huge influence. The reason she is involved every time, is because of her impact. Her past performance is making people want to hear her opinion.
If the case in your workplace is that managers make all the technical decisions, your problem lies there, and wanting to become a manager to fix that, is barking on the wrong tree.
You should be fixing your decision making process, not the career path your people can have in order to be part of the decision making process.
It is not a promotion
So we debunked the reasoning to become a manager for more influence. The way I see managing is simple. Managers usually manage people, and are doing more of a reactive kind of job. Leaders pave the way, show the vision and are proactive. With that in mind, you can see why I say being a leader doesn’t necessarily means being a manager.
Being a manager is not a promotion, it is a career change. You are transforming into a support role, tagged in your company’s balance sheet as “overhead”, since you are not doing the hands-on, actual work, anymore. So why would one want this at all?
- You love to grow high performing teams
- You love growing individuals to become high performers
Those are the only two valid reasons I can think of that would make someone want to manage people. Yes, it is nice that along with the job typically comes a nice salary rise, and some responsibility for the health, growth and happiness of your team, but that should be a side bonus, not the driver.
Be a leader, even if you are a manager
Your job description might say you are a manager, but it would be much better if you will be a leader. People follow leaders, but report to managers. You want people to follow because you show them a bright future, because you inspire them, not because the org chart says you are the manager.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be a good manager if you are not a leader. I think being a good manager is the very basic part of your job description. Once you’ve nailed that, feel free to grow your leadership skills.
Good managers are enablers. They enable their teams to exploit the better version of themselves, mostly by moving a side and letting them experiment with some guidance and the psychological safety that if they fail while trying, someone will be there to give them feedback, but won’t mock, humiliate or enjoy their failure.
Usually, talking about the general direction in which you see the company is going, and building a plan together how to get there, and then moving aside and letting your team execute is a good sign for a good manager, in my opinion. The good manager should be watching, being informed and know what is going on, but should not micro-manager, or stand behind the back of a team member.
Most people know when they have a good or a bad manager. Try to get candid feedback from people around you about your performance as a manager, it will help you and your team grow. Try being a good leader as well, and grow leaders from your team whenever possible.
This is it for this week. Next week I will start covering the day-to-day activities of managers, starting from the most crucial part of the job: the human resource life cycle, which begins with hiring.