There’s one thing I’ve started to realize over 10 years in the software industry. That is, the most impactful contributors are ones who are self-managing. These are the people who will go out and find the right things to do, and simply go do them. Much of the time, managers are pleasers, not leaders. Many managers may be great at “managing”, but not great at getting any work done. Great managers on the other hand are usually great individual contributors who never wanted to be a manager, but decide they have to be a manager to get the job done.
But it’s not so easy to be self-managing unless there’s a common vision as to where you are headed. That vision has to be well articulated and consensus has to be found in order to empower self-managed people. That’s where startups & open source projects thrive.
Think of it, a group of < 10 people typically share the common vision, have the consensus of the direction, and make impact towards it. They don’t have much of a hierarchy to their group outside of a handful of strong leaders who find the right things to do & everyone goes out and does them.
There’s a reason why middle management is the hardest job in any organization. The middle is where things get lost in translation. Managers in the middle are not taught how to lead. They aren’t taught how to listen, how to give & receive feedback, or how to make decisions in the best interest towards a vision.
Yet we continue to see the least qualified people with little leadership skills get promoted into middle management. If you believe in anything I wrote above, you’ll come to realize that this is a problem for self-managing people. People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.
I’ve had great managers at crappy companies, and I’ve had terrible managers at great companies. The challenge here is that at some point you’re going to have to realize that a single person does not dictate your future. You are going to have to take the power back and lead. It may not be in your job description, but it will empower you to do the job you signed up to do in the first place.
People want to work at places where leadership is strongest. So if there’s not strong leadership then…
Be the leader you wish you had.