6 Essential Roles of a Manager

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6 Essential Roles of a Manager

6 Essential Roles of a ManagerOpen any college textbook from a management class and within the first chapter or so, you will see the four functions of management:

  1. Plan.
  2. Organize.
  3. Lead.
  4. Control.

It’s probably been there since the 1950s and hasn’t changed.  The struggle many of us have with this definition is two-fold.  First, how do you define “lead”?  That’s too subjective.  Secondly, “control” is a word that employees never want to hear when thinking about the relationship they have with their boss and their organization.

Instead of canned definitions or functions, it’s much better to think about the roles a manager needs to play if they are to be effective.

6 Essential Roles Every Manager Should Master

  1. Setting Direction.  Regardless of a manager’s level in the organization, he/she spend a tremendous amount of time setting the direction for the team.  Senior level managers are setting the course for the organization or business unit.  Front line managers are taking that set of objectives and translating them into a set of actions for their team to carry out in support of those objectives.
  2. Hiring Great People.  Of all the factors that determine your success as a leader, your team is the biggest.  Surround yourself with great people and everyone starts to take notice of the work your group is doing.  Too often, managers falsely assume that hiring is a job for human resources.  While HR plays an important role in sourcing talent and presenting you with candidates, it’s up to the manager to make the ultimate selections.
  3. Give Feedback.  The people on your team want to know how they are doing.  They want examples of what they are doing well, and believe it or not, they want to know the areas they need to improve upon.  For more on providing feedback, check out “Delivering Developmental Feedback”.
  4. Manage Resources.  Managers spend a large amount of time coordinating and integrating the work of others.  It’s a skill that takes practice.  You need to understand all the projects that are going on at the same time and where the talents of your people are best utilized to complete those projects.  Once you have a clear picture of what needs to happen, you can delegate appropriately.
  5. Develop Everyone.  Notice we didn’t say develop your high performers.  It’s your job as a manager to make sure every single person gets the opportunity to learn, grow, and try new things.  Managers have the tendency to spend the most time with people who are the most like themselves.  You have to resist this temptation and reach out to the people who are also different from you to provide developmental opportunities.
  6. Communicate.  When you are promoted to a management position, your communication responsibilities increases dramatically.  As an individual contributor, it was often enough to just keep your boss informed about the work you were doing.  Now as the boss, you have to keep your manager apprised of the team’s progress, you have to communicate direction and remove obstacles for the team, and you have to communicate cross-functionally with other managers to make sure the work is getting done.

Those are our six.  What would you add to the list?



By | 2016-10-25T16:34:06+00:00 August 13th, 2014|Blog, Leadership|2 Comments


  1. Tim Sieck August 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    That’s a good catch, Paul. I would agree.

  2. Paul Terry August 13, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Great summary, Tim! The only one I might add would be the need for the manager to support or “go to bat” for his/her team. What I mean by this is being a champion – it could be in terms of career opportunity, compensation, or when a person fails or makes a mistake.

    This might fit under “Communication” or “Develop Everyone” but I think it’s really a key part of a manager’s role.

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