The Management Vacuum – Why it is daunting us?
Updated: Dec 3, 2019
After a year of being promoted to Manager, Ken is facing severe issues. Now, as a direct report of CTO, he is unable to explain to her the link between his team's work to the company's strategy. The attrition rate of his team is much higher than the company's average, and more than anything, he is unsure whether he believes in the company's values. The result, an appraisal of "partially meets requirements."
Last year, Ken was a star performer in the tech startup scene in San Francisco. His excellent coding skills, coupled with the high demand in the industry, made him "non-disposable" for any company he worked for. After jumping the ranks, he now manages a team of 20 developers for a tech platform company. And for the first time, he realizes the demands of his job as a Manager.
According to CEB (2017), around 60% of new managers fail in the first two years of placement. The star performers get promoted to a manager based on their contributions; however, they forget to realize that the new level needs a transformational shift where rules of past may event become a bottleneck.
The challenge becomes even more daunting in young, fast-paced technology-based companies, especially in Silicon Valley, a worshipper of technical skills. As individuals move up the hierarchy, they do realize that, in the end, we are humans working with humans. Even though the business stage we currently operate in has completely changed in the last 2500 years of civilization, the underlying skills and mindsets required to be human and work with humans remain the same.
Aristotle, a 4th century BCE philosopher, in his book Rhetorik mentioned three modes of persuasion, leadership, and perhaps, being human: Logos (Logic), Pathos (Relations), & Ethos (Ethics). Logos (Logic) is the "it" component, which allows us to structure, design, and plan while Pathos, the "we" component, is about our relationality, connections, and emotional well-being. Ethos, the "i," enables us to ask more profound questions about our values, and meaning. Being a manager is a summation of it + we + i.
As a manager, one needs to become a strategic partner of top management (it, Logos), people connector for the team, and the extensive network (we, Pathos), and self-aware value-driven individual (i, Ethos). The assumption that only one-dimensional expertise in logic prepares an individual for overall growth is leading to a management vacuum where more people are failing in the role than succeeding, creating a later leadership vacuum where relational and ethical skills become even more critical.
The problem of Ken is not only an individual but also structural. What high performers like Ken needs to succeed in the new role is awareness of requirements of the position, formal training, and role models for mentoring & coaching. We can never be sure that even with all this, Ken would have succeeded, but at least we would have known that he had a much more than 40% chance.
Deepak Bansal, a philosopher, engineer, & entrepreneur, is a founder of MQ Learning. He is passionate about integrating logic, relations, and human values for meaning driven personal and professional development.