Some participants in training and coaching address this topic. Can anybody learn and become a manager? Can it be taught or is it a gift? Are people with that gift better managers? Good manager by my participants’ definition is someone who gets results through his team, he is followed by people voluntarily, his team is steady, the atmosphere is productive and positive.
Here are my thoughts based on my experience and the observation of several thousand managers, team leaders, GMs and CEO’s.
Let’s simplify the point of view. The answer to the above questions is YES and NO (now you can see why I am a consultant )
Yes — anybody can become a manager
No — not everybody who becomes one, necessarily likes the responsibility and stays a manager
Yes — it can be taught
No — not everybody who learns how to manage, applies the knowledge and is willing to change bad habits
Yes — the gift (or a talent) helps a lot
No — it is not enough to be only gifted and talented. Good management requires more than that.
I see 3 major conditions to become a good manager.
Talent (born with preconditions, the 6th sense), flexibility (ability to accept and apply feedback and adjust behaviour) and head knowledge (methods, laws of management, system of leading people)
Having the head knowledge and knowing the methods and systems of leading people definately helps. Can anybody lead and manage wihtout it? Of course. There are many examples from daily life of many companies, which do not invest in any management training or coaching. Are they effective managers? From my experience, usually much less effective that the ones who have at least some formal knowledge and training. I compare it to assembling IKEA furniture. Can you put together IKEA stuff without instructions? Of course. Does it take longer and are you less effective without the system and instructions? Very much so.
The formal training and coaching is necessary, reading management books is very helpful, knowing methods how to manage people saves the time and energy spent on figuring out complex and complicated situations with you subordinates by yourself, intuitively.
I have just recently met a manager who had all the head knowledge and read number of books on management. So he claimed. However, he was missing another vital part of the game — flexibility. Flexibility to listen to feedback, listen to a different point of view and ability to adjust the behaviour. This is the only way to grow and improve. “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path” — such a true line from Matrix.
Anybody can be fed the knowledge, but only a few people are willing and able to apply the knowledge repeatedly, accept feedback, adjust behaviour and change for the better. Head knowledge means to know what to do, in which situation and consciously applying it over and over and over again.
The last, but not least we are getting to talent, or if you wish, preconditions we are born with. Nobody is born a manager. What some people are born with is the natural predisposition, the natural ability. Both groups have to work hard and develop the skill further every day. Talent makes things easier, and with the combination of head knowledge and flexibility, it can bring excellent, long run results to a manager. However, talent alone, does not mean anything. If the talent is not used the right way, and practiced hand in hand with previous two conditions, it is not sufficient. Have I ever seen people without talent for management being manager? Yes, I have, they were cases of people applying the head knowledge and flexibility, mentioned above. Were those people successful as manager? Yes, sure. I have also seen very talented people, with great potential for managing and leadership, however, they did not accept nor apply any feedback. Too bad, for them. Those case do not last very long in many companies. They are very much unemployable from a long term perspective.