Wanted: A Herd of Five-legged Sheep 

The manager is struggling, not only in healthcare but also in production, education, and government. They are working hard to fulfill all their tasks. Just a few years ago, they were being downsized in the name of ‘self-managing teams’ and a ‘flat organization,’ but now there is a desperate shortage of multi-talented individuals willing to take on this role.

It was never an easy position in the organization: sandwiched between the board and the execution, there was always someone with criticism. However, the role used to be clearer. The board set the course, and the manager ensured that the planned route was followed, and the intended results were achieved.

It doesn’t work that way anymore. Research shows that the manager’s responsibilities have increased over the past thirty years, while their mandate has decreased. A significant shift is that the current manager is held responsible for engaging and inspiring employees. You don’t achieve this by telling them what to do but by coaching, facilitating, and motivating them to bring out the best in themselves. Employees want more autonomy, which leads to increased ownership and engagement.

No nonsense, because are people not the most important asset of the organization? They deserve to be empowered and well-supported. Additionally, people can easily seek opportunities elsewhere in a labor market where hybrid and flexible work are the norm.

It’s clear that today’s leaders face different demands. They need sensitivity, empathy, and influencing abilities alongside their leadership skills. They also shouldn’t be afraid to hold people accountable or make necessary adjustments. Substantive knowledge is a plus because it allows them to take on the desired role of a sparring partner. It’s no wonder that a significant portion of managers are overwhelmed by the list of requirements.

In addition to managers, their organizations are also facing challenges. There is a great need for versatile leaders with expertise. They are crucial in attracting, retaining, and developing their most important asset. They are the answer to employees’ need for equal partners, recognition, and space for purpose and self-improvement. It’s a tough job finding a five-legged sheep. They are extremely rare.

The result is that managers are being asked too much. Old-timers are expected to change their approach from ‘back in the day.’ Young professionals progress faster. This is a positive development in itself, provided we realize that an excellent employee doesn’t necessarily make a good leader.

One solution lies in the board’s concern for their management layer. It is their task to support, coach, and train them. Fortunately, this is a trend that is gaining momentum. Many organizations are placing less emphasis on content and knowledge and are instead focusing on developing leadership skills. Investing in team development pays off as well. When managers know each other and are willing to learn from each other, they can also strengthen and complement each other in their roles.

Article written by Marijn Pietersen-Jonker, CFR Global Executive Search, the Netherlands

Photo source: Unsplash


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