Manager Mania
Jayakumar Balasubramanian
Thursday, August 31, 2006
The way of thinking among young techies follows an interesting pattern. If anyone reads into the pattern it says ‘I want to become a manager’. At the same time starting from the coffee table to conferences we can see people ‘complaining’ about managers. But still everyone wants to become a manager. Why? Before getting into the answer let us take a couple of interesting points, one from leadership and another from history. To begin with, ‘Leadership’ can be broadly classified into ‘Power Leadership’ and ‘Inspirational Leadership’. The former is best explained with the Industrial era where the manager or the supervisor gets the job done using the power.

This can be called as ‘Top-down’ approach where using the ‘power’ supervisor will push people to get things done. This approach was working in that era because it got to do more with ‘hands’ than ‘brains’. The later type of leadership (Inspirational) can be explained with the type of leadership that is required in the Knowledge era. Here the leader needs to inspire and enable subordinates or team members to achieve the goal. This can be done mainly by ‘Leading-by-example’ rather than using power or ordering. This can also be called as ‘Bottom-up’ approach.

Going back to Indian history, our country is been invaded and exploited during the last two thousand years by various foreigners. We were suppressed and became victims of ‘Power Leadership’. So in spite of excellent demonstration of Inspirational Leadership by people like Gandhi, most of us are still in the power based world. We derive pleasure and gain social respect when we demonstrate the power leadership than the inspirational leadership.

Coming back to the knowledge industry, the position of ‘Manager’ offers more amount of power than other positions, say for example, a software technical specialist. And also our society, which mainly consists of ‘Coffee-drinking-Hindu-paper-reading’ middle class uncles and aunts who attach more value when their son or daughter manages a dozen engineers rather than design a software product from the scratch. For power-based people the number of direct reports is important than amount of innovation or product ideas that the team generates. I have seen numerous managers feel extremely uncomfortable when the number of direct reports reduces because of organizational restructuring.

But According to Stephen Covey (Author of Seven habits of highly effective people) the whole world is changing from ‘Independent’ to ‘Interdependent’ mode and which suits the knowledge industry very well. No individual or organization can control the business by the use of power. Individuals in the knowledge era need to work with others in a ‘Synergistic’ way because knowledge is in abundance and it is impossible for any individual to possess the whole knowledge. This indirectly means there will be more need for ‘inspirational’ approach rather than ‘power’ based approach.

In Indian tech industry the perception of the word ‘manager’ should change. The manager position should be seen as a way to enable others and adding value to the business rather than power-centric thinking. The dire need of today’s knowledge industry in India is to proceed towards product innovations with a sense of urgency where more ‘hard-core’ contributors with ‘inspirational’ mindset are required. We should think in these terms and make the paradigm shift to the inspirational way if at all we want to make a difference in the knowledge industry.

The author is an Engineer working in the tech industry for five years. He can be reached at b_jayakumar@hotmail.com
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