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The Manager’s Role in 2023: A Leader, Not an Expert

Loïc Blandel
The manager's role in 2023: a leader, not an expert

Many managers in business simply fail to understand their role. Does a manager need to know how to perform his employees’ tasks to be relevant? Should their decision-making be based solely on their knowledge? Is it the role of a manager to provide his opinion on a subject requiring expertise?

You probably think that these questions' answers depend on the perspective of certain areas, types of managers or situations. But we could respond with a resounding “no”, because in most cases, it is not the role of the manager.

However, during my numerous interventions in companies, I have observed an entirely different reality: many managers find it very difficult to accept their lack of knowledge of subjects mastered by their employees when ignorance can actually represent an opportunity for them. Here is why.

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The role of a good manager

A manager's role is far more than supervisory. 70% of a team's engagement is influenced by managers. (Gallup - Global Consulting and Analysis Company)

One of the main roles of team leaders in a company is to "steer" the day-to-day operations of their collaborators. They must also make the best possible use of their teams' knowledge and ensure that team members develop continuously through self-training, cross-training, or group training. Their role will also be to make decisions, when necessary, using the knowledge and expertise of all their employees. On top of that, the best managers have to demonstrate strong communication skills to have good interpersonal exchanges with their employees, to try to understand them better and to include them in the decision-making process.

However, what I observe in the field is a business management system based on the simple principle of an ancestral subordination relationship and, therefore, technical and intellectual authority. This paradigm, which we might consider antiquated, is still very much alive and demonstrates the inconsistency between the desire to empower individuals and the need for superiority that many "managers" feel the need to exercise by being controlling in their management, instead of being motivating.

The manager’s role does not, in any way, require the mastery of all the tasks performed by their teams; and by mastery, this obviously means knowing how to do things for the employee. Yet too many top-level managers believe that knowing better than their teams is a required management skill, that it will allow them to establish and build a certain legitimacy in their eyes.

This belief stems from a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of managers in relation to their teams and of teams in relation to their manager, thereby creating a gray area in which neither the manager nor the employee knows where to place themselves.

In particular, this problem arises because the manager's job is rarely considered a job in its own right. The ambiguity of this role leads many front-line managers to hide behind their technical competencies to establish their legitimacy and to try to conceal their ignorance of a subject. This is not due to a lack of confidence in their teams, but simply to a lack of confidence in their managerial responsibilities.

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Ignorance: understand that effective managers don't have to know everything

Don't you think a manager's ignorance could be a real driver for teamwork, for improving the employees' knowledge as a performance unit, creating value for the company? Could we not view ignorance as an opportunity for great managers to strengthen their position with their teams?

To empower teams, shouldn't the manager use his ignorance to energize exchanges and push the various stakeholders to master their roles and take responsibility within the group? I find this approach appealing because managers can focus on what they are paid for, i.e., to lead, direct, inspire, gather and energize their teams around a common vision to make them as efficient as possible.

They will also be able to take advantage of this opportunity to enhance the value of individual employees by using their respective essential skills, and by challenging them without preconceived ideas on a technical approach to problem-solving.


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To reduce the gray areas in the relationship between managerial roles and employees need, to position managers where they can play their proactive management role with confidence, companies must learn to define the roles and responsibilities of each person very precisely and in full transparency, both at the company level itself, via job descriptions for example, and also at the start of a relationship between managers and their new employees, to avoid viewing "ignorance" as something negative.

Moreover, it is the company's responsibility to accompany the people they have appointed as managers; by accompanying, I mean training them in their new top management role. But shouldn't we also convince them to accept that they do not know everything: accept ignorance to perform better as a group?


Clearly define and strengthen the role of your managers

A successful organization depends on strong managers. Our leadership development experts are here to advise and support you. 

Loïc Blandel

Loïc Blandel

Director of Operations