An Ode to Great Managers


In HR we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we are the lynchpin that holds the organisation together. But being that essential glue isn’t within our remit. In fact it would be impossible for us, because we’re not in the right places at the right times. That role belongs to the manager.

Yes, HR is all about the people, but we tend to only partake in the exciting parts, whether good (reward and recognition) or bad (disciplinary, grievance, dismissal). Who is there day in and day out before HR steps in? The manager.

In the haze of the constant focus on leadership, the importance of the great manager is at risk of being forgotten. It’s being ousted as too traditional, too mundane. Management might not be as exciting as leadership, but it’s still essential.

We all know that managers don’t necessarily make great leaders, but the reverse is also true. Despite this, leadership and management – the combining of these two qualities within one employee – is the modern expectation. The sub text of this being that the value of leadership skills far outweighs the value of management skills.

The problem with this misconception is that we need great managers much more than we need leaders. Where leaders inspire, great managers make that vision meaningful to their teams. Where leaders provide direction, great managers translate that into plans and tasks. While leaders scan the organisation’s horizon, great managers are ensuring the processes are in place to reach those goals.

One leader might require ten great managers to make their dream a reality. After all, inspiration is useless if nobody is putting those ideas into practice. If a leader is the brain of the organisation, then the manager is the heart, driving the lifeblood (employees). No part is more important then the other. Everything needs to work perfectly, and in harmony, to keep the organisational body alive.

Thankfully I believe that this balance, this ratio of leader to managers, more accurately reflects the availability of those skills in the environment. Not everyone has the ability to be a great leader, but many more possess the skills to be a great manager. While, inspirational leadership is a lot about personality and inherent qualities, management is more about learning on the job and using mentoring opportunities.

Make this investment in developing great managers, and they will pay you back ten fold. Organisations are hugely reliant on great managers to hold the fort and keep things running no matter what. And for this reason, great managers are worth their weight in gold.

Image credit: Imperial College London

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