- Jay Maharjan
It was a blessing in disguise when I got my first job out of engineering school as a middle manager. Lessons learned that as a middle manager you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. You are given a limited amount of descision making capability from the top and at the same time constantly hounded by your reports for never ending cycle of smaller responsibilities. Blessing, I call it because it was an opportunity to decide early on that entrepreneurship was my true calling. Looking back, I am proud that I made that conscious choice and hindsight turned out to be quite accurate in this case. Growing number of research is proving that middle managers can be a dying breed – unless they change themselves and adapt to the new demands of the 21st century.
I recently read a piece by London Business School professor Lynda Gratton on the same topic and she has firmly given an outlook of roles for middle managers in the future. The brief summary of what she is claiming and something that I have also written elaborately in the past – that the old concept of knowledge jobs are gone for good. Gone are the days when being a great craftsman and honing your craft would assure you a lifelong career. General management responsibilities at the middle management level is becoming less of a relevant role anymore. Technology enabled tools have replaced these tasks for middle managers. Middle managers need to create sustainable competitiveness and create their value, salvage their positions in different ways. Like Gratton is implying in her piece, managers need to focus more on mentoring, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship rather that micro-managing daily tasks.
I am sure we will hear more on corporate entrepreneurship at the middle manager level in the upcoming decade. Middle managers need to learn to be motivators, and must play a supporting role in a broader scheme of creating vision for the company. If done right, Corporations will have an opportunity to let middle managers go free from their traditional roles – and run a more performance driven, entrepreneurial ventures within corporate setting. This can create tremendous morale among employees as well as a tremendous opportunity for middle managers to constantly grow themselves.
Gratton makes a great point that in the future visilbility for the middle managers will not come from HR, but from peer endorsed, peer reviewed knowledge hubs like lawlink, Sermo and PubMed