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Monday, May 21, 2012

The invisible manager

9:50:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

An invisible manager is a person who holds the position as manager and who works behind the scenes to make sure the actors get what they need to perform at their best; autonomy, access to the relevant resources, good working conditions, recognition, space to think and act. Invisible managers help to find and recruit talented people. They help to take care of all the stuff that makes the people who will perform lose their focus. They stand somewhere behind the scenes, observing that things are all right, and act on things which aren't. As invisible managers, their role in making the play a success is significant. However, they should remain invisible to both the actors and the audience.

It is important to understand that holding the position as manager is not the same thing as being a leader. Unfortunately, many managers believe it is. Although someone can be both a manager and a leader at the same time, in my experience many managers are not leaders; it is because they haven't been assigned as managers primarily because of their leadership skills, but because they comply well with the existing management model. They are loyal, ambitious and meticulous.

The leaders are often elsewhere, trying to stay away from management because they are afraid of getting stuck in status quo (it is a manager's responsibility to maintain status quo). Thus there is often a tension here between managers and leaders: while managers are defenders of status quo, leaders are agents of change. Leaders live and breathe uncertainty, while managers defy and try to fight or prevent it with all means available. Leaders find new paths to moving the enterprise forward, while managers try to get people to walk in line along existing paths. Leaders are driven by passion, while managers are usually driven by other things such as monetary rewards and climbing in the hierarchy.

So, a manager does not always have to be a leader. It is important for anyone who thinks about entering a management position to realize this. Are you a leader? If so, do you want to continue as a leader and develop your leadership skills? Then you might think about how you will be able to do that in your new role.

Managers who are not leaders but who try to act like leaders are just drawing attention to themselves as persons rather than the work that has to be done and the challenges which have to be dealt with. They are themselves too much space and drawing attention away from real leaders and work. They obstruct work. Instead, they should step back and focus on being invisible managers. Great managers make themselves invisible and help to make true leaders visible. If they also have a leader within themselves, they need to manage less to lead more.

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