Replacing Yourself – Let Your Job be Taken!

Many managers/ leaders tend to be threatened by such subordinates for a variety of reasons.

Unless an employee is altruistic and has reached a fair level of self-actualization, I am sure he/ she would like to see her career grow in terms of responsibility, authority and finances.

While in some disciplines, organizations can make do with individual contributors, the business requirement is largely skewed to teams and teamwork. Teams would require a manager/ leader. One of the responsibilities of the manager would be to equip their team members/ subordinates with skills & knowledge which lets them mature and enable them to grow higher within the hierarchy.

Unfortunately, many managers/ leaders tend to be threatened by such subordinates for a variety of reasons.

a) Insecurity of the idea of giving someone a chance to take their place

Some bosses are suspicious of their subordinates of someone taking their place. What if their failings are found out? What if the subordinates are better?

b) Protective & selfish of what he knows

Ownership is good when people nurture others, but can be extremely detrimental when others are ruled out. These kinds of managers like to do things themselves and believe that only they can do it best. That’s good unless it becomes short-sighted.

They also create processes and systems which may be difficult for others to follow.

c) The boss thinks that the subordinates are not good enough

Subordinates are smaller in terms of seniority (quite obviously) and typically will have lesser understanding/knowledge. It is for the manager to groom talent. It is unlikely that subordinates will have all the necessary skill sets when they walk in.

d) Do not like to share the spotlight

Many individuals do not like to share their arguable popularity. If they have got ‘it’ they do not feel the need to share it. Glory can be a big ego-booster and letting go is a problem for many.

e) The perception that the subordinates are smarter and may grow faster than the boss

While this can be true, it is not a necessity. The smarter person will always win and if the subordinate is smarter than the boss then the subordinate needs to be a notch higher. However, insecurities are more the reason than the actual smartness quotient!

Implications

  • While managers are an important part of a team, it is also more important to have a great team. The thumb is probably the most important finger but without the other four fingers, the relevancy and importance of the thumb are greatly reduced. Likewise, an individual contributor is good, but in tandem with the team, the effect can be exponential
  • If one has to grow within the system, managers need to hire people smarter than them or at least on par. When his team performs well he will automatically be pushed up, because the manager is a manager because of his team and not singularly on the plank of his strengths. If employees are trained for bigger and better positions they will push their managers up. One of the most important requirements of a successful manager is the ability to groom future manager and leaders.
  • If subordinates happen to be better leaders than their managers and move past them, they should be happy that they paved the way for a leader to come up the ranks. Darwin’s theory of evolution works in the corporate world too. If the subordinate has the makings of a great leader it will be a reality soon.
  • When future managers/ leaders are trained they need to be groomed in a planned & structured manner. Some amount of effort is required initially as they are, in a sense, raw to larger responsibilities. They will have to be moulded and skills properly honed.
  • Don’t expect all subordinates to measure up. This can be compared to a young sportsman with potential. Some of these sportspersons can cope with the increasing challenges and grow but many others fall by the wayside as they are not able to keep pace.

For any organization to grow it is necessary to have a pipeline of managers/ leaders. It is an ongoing process and cannot be held back. Any blocks to this pipeline will choke the system. 

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