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4 Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before Becoming a Manager


effective leadershipAmerican work culture is leadership crazed; we’re always talking about it. Yet despite decades of research and thousands of New York Times best-sellers later, most managers today aren’t better leaders than they were 30 years ago—at least that’s what Linda Hill and Kent Lineback claim in their recent book, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader. So why is this?

According to them, poor leadership is the result of several fundamental misunderstandings about what it means to lead. Below I’ve summarized a few of their “management misnomers” for you.

I never like pointing out problems without offering solutions, so in part II, which I’ll post next week, I’ll share Hill and Lineback’s three imperatives for becoming a great manager.

4 Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before Becoming a Manager

Management is different than you think it will be
Most managers—generally speaking—were pretty decent self-managers before they became the boss. They were self-motivated, did their work, and didn’t require coddling or constant praise from others to motivate them. Because of this many managers assume at first that managing others will be a lot like managing themselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Becoming a manager requires personal learning and change
Becoming an effective manager requires that we undergo a dramatic change—that we learn to see ourselves and our work differently than we did before we became the boss. Not only must we develop new values and acquire a deeper self-awareness, we must also mature emotionally and learn how to wisely exercise judgment.

Hill and Kent even go so far as to compare “managerial transformation” to the pivotal life changes we undergo when we first leave home, begin a career or get married. Like these “profound inflection points,” becoming a manager will, in the authors’ words, “call on you to act, think, and feel in new ways; discover new sources of satisfaction; and relinquish old, comfortable, but now outmoded roles and self-perceptions. It requires you to consider anew the questions, ‘Who am I? What do I want? What value do I add?’”

Becoming a manager is a journey—and many managers fail to complete it
If the authors are in fact right—if it is indeed true that becoming an effective manager requires us to undergo a transformation of this gravity, it’s easy to see why so many managers fail to complete this journey. As Hill and Lineback suggest, this sort of transformation can take years. Many begin the journey, but most fail to acquire the necessary skills, values, outlook, and emotional competence to complete the journey.

Management demands that we reject complacency
Starting a new position is a lot like going to a cocktail party and joining in on a conversation that started long before you arrived. Let me explain: If we want to join a conversation, most of us are prudent enough to do a lot of listening first—otherwise we risk making fools of ourselves. If we don’t listen, we have no idea what the subject matter is or the opinions of those in the group.

The same is true for new managers. Many managers start out receptive to change. They listen and learn to gauge the “conversation” that started before they arrived.  

But here’s the rub: As they begin to learn the ropes and no longer fear imminent failure, they often grow complacent. As Hill and Lineback point out, every organization has rules (some spoken, others not), policies, standard practices and so on. Once managers understand this part of the “conversation,” many simply use these “standard policies and procedures” to get by.

Check back next week for part II!

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