I worked for an IT company years ago. My boss was a programmer and a really great guy. I was hired to develop and manage a few processes. (Of course, recruitment was one.) I quickly fell into leading several departments. My boss made sure we had the processes and I made sure the team was supported and processes were implemented.
My boss would come in the middle of the night to reboot a server and end up writing code for 10 hours without a thought. Ask him to handle an employee issue and he would hide in his office until I settled it.
It worked out beautifully for both of us. Our roles fit. We were both pretty young with a lot of responsibility. Our balance just happened, it was not intentional, and it fit. I look back now and I understand. He was a great manager and not a leader and that was OK; we complimented each other.
Just because someone is a top programmer and manages his processes well, doesn’t automatically make him good at leading other programmers. In most companies to get ahead a person must be promoted to a leadership role even if it not the best fit for them. They may not even want it and look at it as the only way to move into new challenges. Managing things is important. Leading others is its own skill set.
When you are interviewing “management” candidates remember to look at the candidate and ask yourself “Do you need a leader or a manager for this role?"
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