There are also clear differences in what we expect from managers versus what we see in leaders. For managers, work is an activity which people and processes execute. They allocate tools like budget, plans, and staffing models to produce consistent results. Leaders, on the other hand, are expected to set long-term goals and generate an alignment of energy to mobilize forces toward achieving those goals. They motivate and inspire people to produce changes and ultimately execute efforts toward shared goals. Even before the pandemic, we knew that workers wanted to feel like their work would enable them to grow and make a difference.
Yet in a circular argument that explains a lot, When an individual contributor delivers strong results, is well liked by their peers, and/or shows strong potential to lead, they are often promoted to be . . . a manager. This title is meant to connote the employee is valued and has authority. Then, we tell managers they are responsible for ensuring the work that a group of people (who may have been their peers the day before) gets done. So, ostensibly they know what to do, but how they do it is the question.
Managers who thought their job was to monitor and enable their teams’ productivity could no longer see what their teams were working on or how they were doing. There was significant upheaval while many organizations worked to establish new routines, or trial and error until either something worked or people gave up and just accepted the situation. Furthermore, we often avoid losing more talent during the Great Recession, those who rose to the occasion and whom the company felt it could not do without were likely to be promoted themselves—to more management roles.