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In Defense of Managers April 3, 2014

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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I may be imagining this, but it seems like managers are coming in for a lot of criticism these days. Last month I spotted this article on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130529150715-5799319-the-difference-between-managers-and-leaders?goback=%2Egmr_37987

At first this looked like another “the difference between managers and leaders” discussion that surfaces fairly regularly. Just to re-cap: you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader; managers have a natural opportunity to be leaders because of their position, regardless of whether they’re actually good at it or not; and while it’s great when managers are also leaders, leadership should be encouraged at all levels of the organization.

I understand that the authors are taking an extreme position to make a point about bad managers (“Managers give answers … criticize mistakes … forget to praise … focus on the bad … want credit.”), in contrast to good leaders, or good managers, who are more valuable to their organization because they do the opposite (“Leaders ask questions … call attention to mistakes indirectly … reward even the smallest improvement … emphasize the good … credit their teams.”).

I’m sure this wasn’t meant to be a criticism of all managers, but I’m going to stand up for managers and management anyway. Managers play an important role in the organization and deserve some respect and support. Leadership is absolutely necessary, but a lot of leaders recoil at the thought of becoming a manager. “I can’t deal with all that bureaucracy, all those meetings, all the politics.” Every organization needs people to obtain and allocate resources, assign tasks and objectives, set performance measures and conduct reviews, administer salary, identify training and development opportunities, and generally convert high-level business objectives to team objectives.

In most organizations those responsibilities are given to managers with formal titles, but there’s no reason why individual contributors can’t perform some of those roles. Regardless of whether you call those people managers, management is an equally important function. It isn’t for everyone, and there are a lot of bad managers out there, but let’s honor and respect the folks who are willing to take on those necessary tasks, and help them become even more valuable to their teams and their organization.

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