line manager managing but not leading

7 Reasons Why Your Managers Are Managing But Not Leading

You have a breadth of managers working for you and some will naturally progress. Others, no matter how they approach their work they just don’t seem to progress to more leadership roles. They are managing, but not leading.

Aside from technical ability, there is some common feedback I hear from senior leaders about those who aspire for progression. Here’s what they notice about managers’ behaviours.

Doing more

Many line managers believe if they do more ‘stuff’ they will get recognised. As a result, they spend huge amounts of time doing and fixing other people’s problems. They also often spend time immersed in the work of others and micro managing. This is all in the hope that they will stand out from other managers.

However, ‘doing’ does not equal being better, and is a clear sign of managing but not leading. These leaders will stand out for the wrong reasons. Leadership isn’t about fixing. Leadership involves using the expertise of others to bring about change and improvement. 

team leader managing but not leading

Looking down and not up and around

Similarly, it is common for your managers to spend too much time looking down. Managers often focus on what is immediately around them, without considering other areas of business activity.

Perhaps they are looking at the next day, not the next month or year. Maybe they are looking at their team, but not considering other teams or departments and what is happening there. However, what is happening ‘out there’, affects what happens in their own teams eventually.

Spending time outside of team life is leading for the future.

Poor business and industry knowledge

Managers expend so much energy being ‘in their team’ that they often don’t have visibility of what is happening in the wider business and their industry. They spend little time in other areas of the business with other managers. Consequentially, their thinking and language remains tactical. And their lack of business awareness reflects in conversations with their business leaders.

As a result, these managers don’t have anything to help them stand out and appear as business savvy. Business leaders recognise managers that know what their business and people are about.

‘It’s down to me’

managing but not leading micromanaging

It is natural for managers to think it’s up to them and ONLY them to keep on top of and resolve everything that is thrown at their team.

Yes, they have a responsibility. However, this responsibility is to ensure that their employees are skilled to solve their own issues, or support others in their team.

A manager’s role is to ensure that they have the right skilled people, doing the right things in the right way to deliver high performance. It’s the immature manager who takes everything upon their shoulders.

Too ‘busy’ to maximise opportunities

Being busy on ‘stuff’ means that your managers fail to take up opportunities to show and sell themselves. Meetings, presentations, events, volunteering or representing the business are all moments to stand out from the management crowd.

But there are opportunities abound for managers to be out in the business. There are plenty of moments for managers to be getting noticed and selling their ‘brand’. They just need to look up and find them.

Negative attitude to the business

Some of your managers will have a negative attitude toward the business and its leadership. This leads to getting a poor reputation amongst colleagues and leaders.

managing but not leading negativity

However, managers who voice their opinions about the business forget that they ARE the business. If managers are unhappy about something, they need to take action and lead change. How have you fed back to those with a negative attitude?

Expectation of nepotism

Promotion and responsibility is not an employee’s right. It is earnt and given, based upon ability and performance. Just because your managers get on well with you, doesn’t mean new roles are theirs by right.

How you set and manage expectations is important. Similarly, it is not unusual for line managers to expect their leaders to create opportunities. Or even to share their networks with them. 

Are your leaders managing but not leading?

Because you are a leader in the business, it takes only a little to change these situations and start to get your managers noticed. Engaging them in coaching will create an awareness both of what they are currently doing, how they want to be, AND how to get there.

Contact Abintus today for more help and advice around coaching your line managers to be leaders.

Nick Howell has trained and coached hundreds of leaders to help them be the leader they aspire to be for themselves and their organisations. He uses knowledge gained these experiences to inform and develop leaders, through his articles, coaching and training practice.

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