The 2 key functions of the modern manager

For too long management has been mistaken for authoritative control of people. Where a manager is a powerful figure…almost dictatorial…ruling over his workers in the pursuit of efficiencies.

The decline in the number of manual workers and the ubiquity of the knowledge worker has required a re-think.

Knowledge workers today are often experts in their field. They are likely to be better qualified at their craft than even the people that manage them.

Take the example of the operation theatre for an organ transplant in a hospital. Here the managing doctor is by no means the most knowledgable person in the room. He or she must, for example, rely on the anaesthetist – who is the expert on sedation – to ensure the patient’s pain and consciousness is appropriate. Likewise, every person in that theatre will have to be relied upon for their expertise in order for the procedure to be a success. In such an environment the manager is simply co-ordinating the proceedings – not unlike a conductor for symphony.

Similarly, management must be about bringing together the right people, putting them in positions of strength to ensure the objectives of the organisation are achieved, and engaging with them so they are performing with a sense of worth, purpose and fulfilment. More importantly, the manager must first establish the appropriate strategy so the right objectives are pursued.

One can no longer ‘manage’ people – in the strictest sense.

That perspective must be re-defined. People don’t want to be managed. They want to be involved in the process. They want to know what part their contribution plays in the organisation. They want to be led.

Management today must be re-defined to encompass two key functions: (1) leading people and (2) directing the organisation. The former requires authentic people skills and the latter the wisdom to interpret the rapid changes in the outside world and optimise the internal resources to respond appropriately, in resonance with the purpose of the organisation.


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