Good managers are rare because they must have three very different kinds of strengths:

They must be conversant in every management discipline (see Level 1 of The Index), they need to have great self-awareness, and they need to know what makes people tick.

See The Milwaukee Model of Manager Development to see on one page what it takes to run an organization.

What does a manager need to know?

Good managers are great for business: they help everyone increase productivity, reduce turnover, drive out mistakes and stimulate innovation. They help people achieve great things together, which is a powerful and lasting motivator. A 1% improvement in management ability increases Net Margin 100 basis points.

But most people don’t like their bosses. So, why are good managers to rare?

There are three reasons we undervalue good managers.

First, our society is obsessed with leaders, people who often want to be the center of attention. Second, good managers keep a low profile, letting their teams get the credit. Third, we think you must have an MBA to be a real manager, but that’s not true.

Good managers are rare because few people have the general business knowledge and the maturity, kindness and patience to get people to take on big changes. Too many “managers” are just skilled specialists who have only a vague idea they could run things better and that getting a “manager” title will give them control.

What is a manager?

The semantics of management are a mess, so let’s clarify: a manager helps people work together. A leader inspires people to take a risk, like tackling a big project or plan. In business, most leaders are by necessity both manager and leader, but they’re not the same thing. A supervisor is really a manager, but the connotation is that a supervisor is a junior or less experienced manager.

“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.” – Charles Shultz

Is managing a helping profession?

Good managers say that on any given day they’re coach, educator, psychologist, group therapist, social worker or even pastor (or camp counselor). Like these professions, managers help us address our shortcomings with the sincere desire that we can be our very best.

Managing people is hard, but worthwhile, like the other helping professions. Maybe if we thought of managing this way, we’d respect them more and more great people would want to take on the challenge.

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Image: Capitol Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons