Manager first, leader later

I am tired of leaders. There are too many of them. Designated 'managers', most of them skipped directly to being leaders. There used to be good managers too, you know. People who understood the basics of the applications or systems they managed, took decisions based on experience and facts. Managers who understood details enough to ask the right questions to the right people.

One would have thought that the tsunami of outsourcing having settled, we do not need sheep herders. But there's still a hangover from the last decade where people are turned into mid level managers to preside over an army of four engineers. And this sheperd is brainwashed to believe that he does not need to 'get involved' in 'actual' work anymore. Hands-off. Close putty. Uninstall Eclipse. Don't open those logs. Learn how to delegate. Let go. Be a leader. Look forward. Provide direction. Be a one minute manager. Set expectations, ask next week how things went.

And then suddenly everyone is confused why projects fail and people leave.

The career-age at which people become managers today is shorter than it ever was, especially in IT, more so in India than any other place. Maybe you do need so many managers given the volume of work. But the success of this team does not depend on the manager being hands-off, techno-dufus, busy with powerpoints and spreadsheets. The entry level manager must be hands-on, architecture aware, skilled at reviewing code, even triaging issues.

Sure, she should delegate and give space to her engineers. Agreed, she should set direction and focus on the macro picture. But these managerial responsibilities do not necessarily demand that she should stop understanding the work of her engineers completely. It is alright for her to interrupt a defect review in the middle to open up the code and offer suggestions.

The team will only have more respect for a 'leader' like that. Manager first, leader later.

Thoughts or good reads on this topic?

Published: 28 Nov 2016.


All views expressed here are my own and not endorsed by my employer or any other company. Cases presented do not necessarily relate to my employer, peers or team. - Vikrant