Do you want to be a Manager?

You may be the best developer in the world, or you may be able to diagnose any network problem in three minutes flat, but that does not automatically make you a good candidate for a manager. That’s like saying “I play a mean cello, so I should conduct the entire orchestra.” These are two different skill sets.

The Manager tag should not be your goal. It is not something by which to measure your personal worth. It’s a responsibility, and it’s a lot of work. It’s also very unfair to team members to take on their management if you don’t really know how to do it.

If you think you deserve to be in management, ask yourself these questions:

* Could you lay off an employee that you like very much because upper management needs to make cuts?
* Could you confidently promote one of your employees above others?
* Would you be able to tell an employee he or she needs to attend to his or her hygiene better?
* Can you lead a team to results without micromanaging?
* Could you say “no” to upper management when they make unreasonable demands of your staff?
* Could you take responsibility for failures of your team even if only one staffer screwed up?

Assertiveness: Quality of great manager

People have written tons of articles about what makes a great leader great. Some conclusions center around his or her intelligence, charisma, or personal drive. Researchers at Columbia University have come to a little bit of a different conclusion.

Professor Daniel Ames, with a colleague in the Management Division, Frank Flynn, centered their research on coworker evaluations of their MBA students. Former coworkers commented on the students’ strengths and weaknesses and also rated their leadership potential. When asked, “What’s holding this person back from being a great leader?” the answer that came up most often was assertiveness. This was mentioned from both sides of the coin, with some people described as too overbearing and others described as not assertive enough to stand their ground.

The reason assertiveness comes up so often is that conflict is such an essential part of what managers and leaders deal with. He said,

“Sometimes it’s avoiding conflicts that really beg to be embraced and engaged in. Other times it’s pushing too hard and straining relationships through conflict.”

There’s variance across situations as well:

“Someone who’s a real mouse to their immediate supervisor might turn around and be an absolute terror to the people who work for him or her.”

I think, too, that the motive or outcome behind “winning” has something to do with the effectiveness of assertiveness. A leader who wants to win just for the sake of winning is less effective than the leader who is going to bat for something he or she believes in. But even then, a highly assertive person (even if they’re fighting for the right reason) may not see the consequences of his behavior. For example, he doesn’t see that the person he just dealt with is feeling frustrated or angry — feelings that can linger and affect the next interaction – all that is important is the win.

Middle levels of assertiveness tend to be associated with more effective leadership:

“We find what is essentially an inverted U between the ratings of a person’s assertiveness and the ratings of their leadership: up to a certain point it’s positively associated, and then it goes back down.”

How do you make someone who is too assertive less so? And how do you make a meek person more assertive? Ames recognizes that you can’t change someone’s character. But with the right kind of coaching, you can alter the person’s behavior.

Early in my career, I was assertively-challenged, if you will. But that gradually changed the more time I spent in the working world. I saw that assertiveness is not anger, and that there are just times you need to push your case.