Just because you are successful, doesn’t mean you need to be a manager


Two similar ideas by two different people, both espousing an idea I really like: not everybody needs to be a manager; Even though we all think we do.

In this short TED talk, Richard St. John, says, about 1:30 minutes into the talk, the following sentence:

And reaching success, I always did what I loved. But then I got into stuff that I didn’t love, like management. I am the world’s worst manager. But I figured I should be doing it. Because I was, after all, the president of the company.

And then, about 2:40 minutes into the talk, this:

Well, it didn’t take long for business to drop like a rock. My partner and I, Thom, we had to let all our employees go. It was down to just the two of us, and we were about to go under. And that was great. Because with no employees, there was nobody for me to manage. So I went back to doing the projects I loved. I had fun again. I worked harder. And to cut a long story short: did all the things that took me back up to success. But it wasn’t a quick trip. It took seven years.

On the same idea from a different perspective, Allan Bacon writes:

Here’s my radical suggestion for creating more time and flexibility in your job: give yourself a demotion from management to a position where you can directly make a strategic contribution. I call this “strategic downshifting”.

Just like downshifting in a car, this gives you more power and control. It also makes your engine rev higher and gives you faster acceleration. That is to say, you can create a place where you can be excited about your work again.

I already wrote a few weeks ago about the dangers in our misguided self-perceptions. The myth that success in business means becoming a manager is a just what it is – a myth. Don’t let yourself be disillusioned by it.

It is time to find and focus on your strengths. To find and focus on your comparative advantage. To find and focus on how you can make a difference and how you can create change.

It is time we strive for excellence.

Are you in the best role you could be or do you need a downshift?



2 Responses to “Just because you are successful, doesn’t mean you need to be a manager”

  1. Allan Bacon Says:

    It takes a lot of courage to face up to both the “normal” path of moving into management + the resistance we all feel when we do something we are good at it. But the pay-off is huge. Thanks for spreading the word.


  2. sherfelad Says:

    I have nothing to add to that. Thanks for taking the time to comment Allan.

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