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The Manager’s Role in 2023: A Leader, Not an Expert
Downloaded on: March 22, 2023
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.
The role of a good managers
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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