The ‘Manager’ mania

Some time back I wrote a blog titled ‘Ji Huzur to Whatsup dude?’ in which I wrote about various types of work cultures that is prevailing in India at the same point of time which I don’t think we will get to see in any other part of the world. Going some more deep into this topic I found some more interesting patterns emerging in the Knowledge industry as of today. The pattern says ‘Everyone wants to become a manager’. For all I know and experienced people curse their managers when they were non-managers and hated the managers to the core by telling all sorts of reasons. But still everyone wants to be come manager. But why? Before getting into the answer let us take a point from leadership as well as from history.

At first the word ‘Leadership’ can be broadly classified into ‘Power Leadership’ and ‘Inspirational Leadership’. The former is best explained with the Industrial era where the manager or the leader is given some amount of power using which he will get the job done from their subordinates. This can be called as ‘Top-down’ approach where using the ‘power’ the task got done. Ranging from Ancient kings to Hitler we can see various examples of power based leadership. The later type of leadership (Inspirational) can be explained with the type of leadership that is required in the Knowledge era. Here the leader needs to inspire others and enable others to achieve great things. This can be done mainly by ‘Leading-by-example’ rather than giving FUTTAs or ordering. This is totally different from the ‘Power leadership’. This can also be called as ‘Bottom-up’ approach.

Second going back to Indian history our country is been invaded and exploited for the past two thousand years by various foreigners. We have been suppressed and became victims of ‘Power Leadership’. So in spite demonstration of excellent Inspirational Leadership by people like Gandhi most of us are still in the power based world. We derive pleasure and gain social respect when we demonstrate the power leadership than the inspirational leadership.

Coming back to the knowledge industry, the position of ‘Manager’ offers more amount of power than other positions say for example a software technical specialist. And also our society which mainly consists of ‘Coffee-drinking-Hindu-paper-reading’ middle class uncles and aunts who attach more value when their son or daughter manages a dozen engineers rather than design a software product from the scratch. For power based people the number of direct reports is important than amount of innovation or product ideas that the team generates. Also I have seen numerous managers feel extremely uncomfortable when the number of direct reports reduces because of organizational restructuring. This also explains why our software companies are performing exceptionally well when comes to ‘Services’ based model which requires more and more managers rather than ‘Product’ based model.

But According to Stephen Covey (The 7 habits author) the whole world is changing from ‘Independent’ to ‘Interdependent’ mode and which suits to the knowledge industry very well. No individual or organization can control the business by the use of power. Individuals in the knowledge age need to work with others in a ‘Synergistic’ way because knowledge is in abundance and it is impossible for any individual to possess the whole knowledge. This indirectly means there will be more need for ‘inspirational’ people rather than ‘power’ based people.

In Indian tech industry the perception of the word ‘manager’ should change. The manager position should be seen as a way to enable others and adding value to the business rather than power-centric thinking. Apart from that the dire need of today’s knowledge industry in India is to proceed towards product innovations with a sense of urgency where more ‘hard-code’ contributors with ‘inspirational’ mindset is required. We should think in these terms and make the paradigm shift to the inspirational way if at all we want to make a difference in the knowledge Industry.


Anonymous said…
Awesome ! .. a must read .. for all managers ! ;-)
I am not sure how many managers understand what I have mentioned in the blog :(
Anonymous said…
Good one. Did you know most of the Indian companines dont have "only technical stream". Once you are senior you have to become a manager n bother abt managing people n slowly forget all your skills.
The 'Technical only' stream is not existing because our tech industry is mainly service oriented.Its been a decade since we have demonstrated our 'service' capabilities and now its time for us to venture into 'Product' stuff for which we need more 'technical' folks (Like you!!).Last week's 'Business-world' talks about this extensively. If you get a chance pl read it.

- Jayakumar
Anonymous said…
Hi Jayakumar,

Yes I understand, Inspirational leadership is becoming the need of the day. But I think, we can look into the issue a little deeper and from other dimensions.

This topic has a little deeper roots.

Fact 1: Whether you are 'Power leader' (or) an 'Inspirational leader' (or) not a leader but a worker, irrespective of that your job should help you to sustain a decent living and support your family.

Fact 2: After one's 2nd PUC (or 12th), you are not inspired / interested to choose B.E / B.Tech.
Infact only few may know, what it is all about. Generally, one is motivated / forced by well wishers to take up Engineering. This is because this is one of the shortest way to get into a job providing a handsome salary. Even today, the demand is there as the IT industry demands more workforce. So we could say someone as 'Typecasted' IT Engineers.

Fact 3:
In a society like ours, where 'Studying Hard' is preached more than 'Studying with Interest'. So after getting exhausted due to overwhelming competetion - few just streched 4 more years. Few really accepted the situation and created a liking for what they are doing.

Fact 4: Irrespective of whatever category one belongs - everyone wishes to earn more by 'Making use of the opportunity' and 'Making smart choices' :)

Considering the above facts -
1. People could not inspire, for sometimes they themselves are not inspired.
2. Waging a continuous war with Inflation, along with family commitments - continuous learning may not be your top priority. In this case, Power leadership works out fine than the 'Inspirational' one.
3. If at all, you are getting stagnated in an Organization - there is always a short term solution of finding a new job, with a better salary, provided you manage to get one. Here its a new beginning and past mistakes were forgotten.
4. If one still has to put up in the same organisation - one would realise that he is getting stagnated and learn to survive in the organisation. Just like, you learn to get marks in an exam - whether you like the subject or not.

Last but not the least .. yes now things are getting changed and industry is inviting the 'non-typecasted ones'. Also, the one good thing is - due to its education, the current generation is intending to give more options/exposure to their children. They are having more 'empathy' and so things are not getting imposed. This will reduce the population of 'typecasts'.

So you are a manager or not, you need to fight inflation and sustain a living. One can even bring 'Baghavath Geetha' here - "If one's duty is to wage such a war, get into it. I am here to take a look at the consequences" - Lord Krishna :)

---- by Viswanath. (Not a manager and the blogger knows this).
Hello Viswa,

Thanks a lot for taking time and writing wondeful comments :)

I completely agree with your points.In fact I was about to write another blog names 'Our roots are very deep' which basically talks about the root-cause of this problem. Since it has got to do with more of education system I thought I will write a seperate one.

In the past we have seen people like Kalaam and Narayana Murthy who have demonstrated excellent 'Inspirational' leadership and continue to do the same. Please note that they have demonstrated that even though they faced even difficult problems. We should take them as real role models,make use of the vibrant economy and demonstrate true 'Inspirational' leadership. Only that according to me will put our country into the place it deserves.
Sujai said…
Dear Jayakumar:
That was a great article. You have categorized managers into types- power based and inspirational. That is a very nice distinction- it helps understand many issues in today's management.

I worked in 2000-employee software company for a period of one year. I have implemented the technical ladder where a person can keep growing in technical contribution.

It was tough to get it implemented- had to convince many authority figures throughout the organization. But once it was implemented, it was quite welcome by many. I left that company after I implemented this ladder. When I was leaving there was 1 in the technical lead position in a division of 500. According to my ex-boss, now there are more than 15 of them.

I guess, if we Indians are given some role models and examples, we would take it up.
Dear Sir,

Recently I was going through this book "BREAK FREE" by Debashis Chatterjee,the famous Organisational Behaviour professor at IIM-L.This is a must for any management student,business managers and management thinkers.

The preface on Manjunath who lost his life fighting against the oil mafias brought tears into my eyes.He was epitome of inspirational leadership.

The first chapter talks about how the author learnt about leadership from a kolkata slum girl.Moral:-'Leaders liberate themselves and others from suffering'.

The statement of Edmund Hillary is used to explain the DNA of leadership lucidly.It goes like this,'Mount Everest has a real problem.It can't grow anymore,whereas I can'.This is what leadership is all about.True leaders exercise the choice to grow beyond the fear and hopelessness of their circumstances.

The second chapter talks about dating yourself and how original ideas paves your way to success.Third emphasing on 'a desire for success is not about making a career but about making a difference in the social arena'.

The fourth chapter is my favourate.It talks about how the sprit of team members can be rekindled at workplace/organisations as a whole."First simplify rules,Second amplify ownership and the third,multiply leaders to fill every role".

The fifth one talks about Chatterjee's three pronged formula of "Form,Focus and Flow".

Each chapter encompasses each and every aspect of thought leadership,change management with examples which are personal,regional,national and global.The Sanak Mishra case study about Rourkela Steel Plant is unique and a must read.

Overall, a great book that I come across in recent times on leadership.Definitely the knowledge acquired is enormous,enriching and gave an upthrust to my learning curve.

Sir!!Your thoughts about leadership are just in sync with the need of the time in corporate arena.
Thanks a lot for your comments and your book of Mr.Chatterjee. I am not a management graduate but very strong interest in the leadership area. Your book info has definitely given me some useful info. I will add it to my 'to-read' list.

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