Manager or expert?

Many want to be BOSSES – with capital letters. Other do not want to be bosses. I wonder how many would like to be just experts?

After joining multinational companies, I have believed that any training is good – even if paid by myself. I was still unsure of myself and I thought that diplomas will pave my launching pad. I believe many think the same.

Up to a point the correlation between the studying effort and career ascent worked just fine. Graduating the EMBA program was indeed a launching pad, not just by the novelty of the notion (I was after all part of the first generation!) but also by the panoramic view that allowed me to understand many other phenomena, interactions and correlations beyond my strict job description domain.

Then a colleague (with the same appetite for career) suggested we should both join CFA program (chartered financial advisor – I explained the acronym as I get irritated by incessant usage of acronyms that should be, of course, known by everybody). A 3-year program of individual study with an enourmous sacrifice of energy and time bringing in the end a very prestigious title recognized globally. It was then that for the first time I analyzed a course as an optional investment and not a mandatory requirement. I tried to assess what benefits would that course deliver for my future career.

I recommended to my colleague to follow his dream without me. I had decided to quit my path to future expert status in favour of a management career. Since then I have a deep respect for experts – whichever expertise they have. They are the ones who treasure whatever is most valuable and detailed aspect of human creation regardless of the field. They deserve our respect and support. And the managers should be the first to honor, support and compensate them.

There are formulas to calculate the number of managers per number of subordinates, rules that have enough sense for some organizations too rich in management layers. But there are not and there shouldn’t be any rules in place to set the maximum number of experts in an organization. Unfortunately I have seen quite often the situation in which the departure of an expert was not treated seriously enough, hence the lowering quality standards visible in not so isolated cases.

Managers should use the telescope, experts should use the microscope. Only together can opinions, approaches and perspectives  be combined in a harmonious and delightful kaleidoscope.

P.S. Managers should also be experts. In management :)

P.S.2  My colleague eventually landed in the management world after years of satisfying experiences. After he also studied at the management “school” – as there is a school for those who want to be called “boss” without irony.