Are You Management Material? 5 Things No One Tells You About Being in Charge


You’ve always heard that the corner office is the ultimate goal. So you spend your working life “climbing the ladder” and moving up to positions that offer greater responsibility. On the one hand, career achievement is a good thing, as management and leadership positions pay more, and provide a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, not everyone is “management material.”

Many businesses follow the “Peter Principle.” Essentially, employees move into new positions of increasing responsibility as they demonstrate competence. Only when an employee reaches a level at which they display incompetence, or at least a lack of improvement, do they stop climbing the ladder. Clearly, this isn’t the best way to run a company, since it generally leads to management teams that aren’t prepared for their jobs.

What is even clearer, though, is that it’s possible to be good at what you do, but not a great leader. Some people who become leaders struggle with the realities of management. That’s why, when assessing your readiness to be a leader, you need to be prepared for some of the “unspoken” principles of effective leadership, and assess whether you actually have those abilities.

1. Leaders Must Be Willing to Delegate

Many managers struggle with passing off tasks to their teams. They may believe that it’s easier to do something themselves than to teach an employee to do it, that they are the only one who can do it right, or hold on to favorite tasks from a former position, even if they should be handled by someone else.

The result is often that the leader is bogged down in the minutiae, and effectively undermines and restricts the staff — or even cause missed deadlines and opportunities. Therefore, leaders must be willing to delegate, and trust their staffs to do their jobs.

2. Leaders Must Grow Other Leaders

Study after study has shown that the most effective leaders are those who help develop others’ skills and talents. Fostering employee growth and development leads to more productivity, higher sales, happier employees, and greater innovation.

Effective leaders understand that being “in charge” doesn’t only mean telling people what to do and when, but helping them develop the skills they need to know what needs to be done and when on their own.

3. Leaders Must Be Able to Make Hard Decisions

Being a manager is great, until you have to make decisions that don’t appear to have any easy answers. Reprimanding and firing employees, evaluating work quality, and making choices regarding priorities can often be challenging for new or inexperienced managers, especially when the subordinates are former co-workers. When you work in the public or nonprofit sectors, those decisions are often even more challenging, since the decisions you make can affect people on a larger scale.

Effective leaders have the problem-solving and decision-making skills necessary to evaluate all facets of an issue, make choices that are fair and reasonable, and communicate those decisions in such a way that others understand the motivations and can support the decisions, even if they don’t agree.

leaders-listen4. Leaders Must Be Good Listeners

Listening seems like such a basic skill, but it’s one that many people, not just leaders, actually struggle with. Listening means paying attention to not only what’s being said, but also being able to discern what’s not being said by assessing nonverbal cues. It means focusing on what others are saying, and not on formulating your response. It means knowing which questions to ask to elicit more information.

When you develop good listening skills, others feel heard and respected, and you are able to make more effective decisions based on correct information — not just assumptions based on what you might have heard when you weren’t paying full attention.

5. Leaders Put the Professional Ahead of the Personal

Again, leaders who are promoted above their former co-workers often struggle with this the most, but it’s vitally important that managers be able to put their personal feelings about someone or something — positive or negative — aside for the benefit of the business.

That might mean reprimanding a friend for poor performance, or working with someone you dislike on a major project. Managers must be able to control their emotions. Otherwise, their leadership abilities will come into question.

No one ever said that being the boss was easy. Even with the increase in pay and the pride of achievement that comes with it, not everyone wants to be the boss or will enjoy the responsibility. As you climb you own career ladder, keep these points in mind — or you might just find yourself a victim of the Peter Principle sooner than you expect.

5 Responses to Are You Management Material? 5 Things No One Tells You About Being in Charge

  1. I find that most people want the money of management but don’t want/can’t handle the accountability that comes with it. We have a management training and leadership course that we get employees in to and we really go over the realities of management. About 50% drop out, but for the other 50% they keep going. Better to find out ahead of time if you can handle it or not. The money is great, but you have to be a professional babysitter and be accountable for the productivity of everyone in your group. Those that can handle it and develop others have long successful careers.

  2. Michelle says:

    I learned some of these lessons at my first fast food job I had as a teenager. It was so easy to be walked all over, you learned pretty quick.

  3. Myles Money says:

    We all like to think we’d be good managers, but it’s simply not the case: some thrive in a leadership role of course but many of us aren’t up to taking the additional responsibility.

  4. Point number 4 is very important. I think the best leader or a manager is always ready to listen to the views and the moods of their subjects, else thy may find themselves in problems with their team members.

  5. I’m not management material….in no way would I want to have to deal with hiring/firing/salary sort of stuff. I AM, however a technical team lead responsible for delegating, monitoring, and ensuring my team gets their work done on time and with quality. So, I need to have many of the same qualities you list. One thing I take pride in is helping my team members get the right opportunities to help move their careers along. Not only are we working together towards completing a common project, but we are working on advancing our careers together as well!

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