I have just come back from Croatia where I was delivering a leadership development program. A lot of impressions, a lot of very interesting conversations, a lot of questions which make you think…a lot of inspirations…

Leadership, managerial skills, being an effective manager and what we can do to become one… And because the workshop took place in the company ENI (oil&gas industry–means an engineering environment), our discussion was mostly about a question what is more important for a manager – being an expert in the field which his/her team work for or being well equipped in so called managerial skills.

That is a crucial question and not only in companies where a technology is a decisive factor for a success. An answer to the question is not obvious in any company. I would even risk a statement that the answer here depends on very specific conditions which means it will be different for different managers – concrete individual people and a business reality around them.

Well, on the one hand…a natural and justified thing is the fact that when a company decides to promote an employee to a managerial position, usually they choose a person who knows the best the work which is done by the team. This is logic so it would be difficult to imagine a different approach here. On the other hand – does a vice-president of sales know more about the company clients than his/her experienced sales specialists? More often than not, he/she knows less because for a long time already she/he hasn’t been dealing with the clients on every day basis. So the assumption which is the basis for a hierarchical model of managing a company and which says that each level of management knows more than the level below it, does not fully reflect the reality. Uff!

This is the truth but sometimes I have an impression that all the actors engaged for this scenario have with it a problem! The employees on lower levels very often wonder what their boss is doing every day – „he has nothing to do! the whole work is done by us…and besides, she anyway doesn’t know the job, if we are not here, she couldn’t get the tasks done herself!”. Does it sound familiar? For sure for most of you – it does. And how does it look like from the point of view of the boss? „I have such a big responsibility and zero authority! my employees want me to do what they do but I don’t have time for this, I would have more time if I could unconditionally rest on them, if they just did their work properly and without me having to control them, if they felt more responsible – but for this I need to have more authority, how to solve this problem?” Doesn’t this sound also familiar, at least for some of you?

It looks like the question what is more important for a manager – being a subject matter expert or skilled in managing people’s work is in fact about a proper balance between the responsibility and the authority. And the balance is built on both sides – the subordinates and the boss. Each manager together with his/her team has to work out a proper ratio between a need for authority and the readiness to share responsibility with the boss on one side, and a building of authority and expecting responsibility from subordinates on the other.

And this in turn reminds me about the thoughts that my interlocutors shared with me in the interviews from 30th September this year. Kyoji Tanaka gives an advise to all leaders: „Never run away” – be the owner of a situation, build your authority as a brave leader. And Jawahar Bekay suggests that leaders should develop leadership skills by helping their employees to develop and grow – and the best way to do this is when you share your responsibilities with them.

All the best!