What SHOULD BE the Role of the Modern Manager?



What is a Manager?  According to BusinessDictionary.com. a manager is “an individual who is in charge of a certain group of tasks, or a certain subset of a company. A manager often has a staff of people who report to him or her.”  This definition is not new and seems to capture the essence of the role we are all familiar with.  But is that role of the manager what we really need in our organizations today?  As we are trying to increase our influence and move along the maturity curve in procurement, we need “managers” that are more like coaches and facilitators than task masters. 

I recently read an article in HBR entitled “The Role of the Manager Needs to Change in 5 Key Ways”. According to the article, “For almost 100 years, management has been associated with the five basic functions outlined by management theorist Henri Fayol: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. These have become the default dimensions of a manager. But they relate to pursuing a fixed target in a stable landscape. Take away the stability of the landscape, and one needs to start thinking about the fluidity of the target. This is what’s happening today, and managers must move away from the friendly confines of these five tasks.”  Wrap your head around that – 100 years?  Think about how dramatically the world and business has changed in the last 20 years and how the speed of change is accelerating exponentially each and every year.  So, shouldn’t we expect that the roles of our leaders need to change as well?   

Here are ways the role of the Manager should change:

Directive to Instructive:  As more of our work becomes automated, there will be less and less need to have managers that direct employees to do routine tasks.  Managers need to spend time thinking about how to shape the future in the context of automation.  What is really needed, is to have a leader that creates a safe learning environment where employees have the opportunity to increase their skillset and practice those new skills to move beyond the routine.   

Restrictive to Expansive: This change is one of the most important.  We need managers that can create the “multiplier effect” – replicating their skillset in their employees.  Managers that delegate their authority and encourage their employees to learn and grow will free up their own time to be more strategic.   The sign of a good manager is one that has developed their people to take on bigger and better roles within the company. 

Exclusive to Inclusive: We often assume that once someone is made a manager, they are automatically considered to be a good decision maker.  But decision making is as much a science as an art and we very rarely teach managers how to make good decisions.  Studies have found that seeking out input from a diverse set of thinkers, will lead to better decisions.  Good managers seek out input from their peers and employees and use that input to create alignment and make decisions that others will follow.

Problem-Solver to Challenger:  Problem solving may always be part of the role of the manager but encouraging others to solve problems by challenging the status quo and getting others to find new ways of solving old problems will go a long way to growing / improving the business as opposed to just putting out fires. 

Employer to Entrepreneur:The job of a manager must be permanently recast from an employer to an entrepreneur. Being entrepreneurial is a mode of thinking, one that can help us see things we normally overlook and do things we normally avoid. Thinking like an entrepreneur simply means to expand your perception and increase your action — both of which are important for finding new gateways for development. And this would make organizations more future facing — more vibrant, alert, playful — and open to the perpetual novelty it brings.”

The best managers are those that bring out the best in their people and allow them to shine.  This type of manager will be well equipped to take on the challenges that our rapidly changing business environment is throwing our way.

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . . . . 


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