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Why management isn’t a natural career progression

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

When it comes to management, the same sentiment applies. Some people are natural leaders, or are able to adapt into them, whilst others find the burden given to them under the guise of progression.

The average company structure is hierarchical, consisting of different layers of management on top of delivery. Rather than encouraging people to be the best they can be at their craft, and rewarding them based on expertise, some organisations honour long-servers or talented individuals with management roles.

Here’s the thing – not every expert makes a good manager. Someone could be an outstanding football player, but does that make them the next Pep Guardiola? Sadly not. It doesn’t mean they can’t become an inspiring leader though. With the right training and support people can learn management techniques and how to get the most out of their teams. As Pep puts it: “If you work like a beast in training, you play the same way.” So for some people, leadership behaviour can be learned and implemented.

Career progression

However not every person has the will or the personality to become a people coach, and this is ok. Companies need specialist worker bees as much as they need mentors and strategic leaders. Expertise is vital in helping a company set itself aside from its competitors, and drive new innovation in the field. Leadership is about getting the most out of these people assets and coaching teams to success. The two skillsets work together, complementing each other and boosting company performance.

How to identify future leaders using data

If not everyone is destined to become a manager, how then is it possible to identify the right person for a leadership role? Excellent communication and organisational skills are a must, but what about factors like emotional intelligence and empathy? Leaders need to be able to understand their team members’ personalities and what motivates them in order to get the best out of them.

Rather than measuring against tickbox attributes like character, commitment, and courage, use data to inform, as per most business decisions. Measure the shape of all employees using tools such as Gauge360, which gives users data-driven insights on the key attributes of the most successful team members and managers. By working out the characteristics and behaviours of the players – aka high performers – companies can make management choices based on who has the right traits for the role(s).

What about the people not suited to management?

People who don’t display leadership tendencies shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to reward. Team leader roles – once the stepping stone to management – don’t have to be the only pathway to recognition. With flatter company structures growing in favour among small and medium enterprises (and Google), now is the time for the expert to take centre stage.

Skilled professionals can be harnessed via agile working methods and an experimentation culture. It’s all about empowering these industry buffs to make changes and try new ways of working. Specialists are in charge of their own destiny when it comes to knowledge, and are a big part of forming a great company culture. Proactive, flexible, open-minded are all words that spring to mind when thinking of the ideal expert, with these tendencies nurtured by their company.

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Honing their craft and being the best in their industries is more important to many specialists than becoming a manager of people. This should be embraced and accepted, rather than being seen as a lack of ambition.

It’s all in the blend

An organisation can’t function without the right mix of expertise and exceptional leadership, so both should be embraced as ways to progress. Old company hierarchies are being replaced with fewer reporting levels to promote forward-thinking and open working, so it’s time for attitudes around progression to change too.