Are You Overlooking the Best Candidates for Management Roles?

BY Kathy Crosett
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As organizations grow, they must rely on good managers to lead their team members toward achieving the goals set for the quarter or year. Some individuals are more successful at the leading process than others. A recent article on Knowledge@Wharton explores whether some folks are born with the traits necessary to be good managers and whether these traits can be learned.

In many organizations, employees feel the pressure to move up the organization through the management chain as proof that they are making career progress. Businesses tend to move employees who are great at their jobs into management roles without understanding that a different skill set is required to make a good manager. At the same time, companies often overlook employees who possess the personalities that can contribute to a strong management style. To add to the complexity of the situation, Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell reminds us that many businesses have cut their budgets to the bone. The newly promoted manager is not only expected to continue many of the day to day tasks he’s always done, he’s also on the hook to lead people with little or no training on the best approach to take.

The Wharton study cites consultant Virginia Vanderslice who points out that some employees are indeed better suited to take on management responsibilities with little training. One of the most important characteristics is self-​confidence. Vanderslice believes that an employee who lacks self-​confidence will be more worried about himself than about the people he is supposed to be watching over and may never make a good manager.

Experts believe that many employees can be taught to become good managers, unless the individual suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. When moving into leadership roles, managers must be reminded it’s no longer all about them. They must be willing to think about how to shape job and career paths for employees in their group. The best managers understand that every employee has a different work and learning style. To keep their employees happy and motivated, they must also be willing to listen to ideas for change and provide positive and frequent feedback.

If you’ve got a management position opening up in your company, have you considered promoting an individual who is not the best salesperson or the best engineer? It might be time to review the work style and personalities of other folks in the department and move the right candidate in a new role.

The Wharton article also touches on developing an alternative career track for the highest achievers in various department – those folks who are superstars but will likely never make good managers. Finding a way to promote these folks and giving them visibility in the organization without adding managerial duties may result in a more successful outcome for everyone involved.