Why great managers don’t make great directors

Many great managers think they must make a great director. 

Sadly this is not always the case. The skill set is entirely different. 

There are some fabulous managers in British industry and some great and strong directors. There are even a number of people who are good at both roles. But that’s rare.

In many businesses, the promotion from manager to director has been given for entirely the wrong reason (for example: length of service; having the same name as the owner; the conviction that X was a great manager and therefore must make a great director). This over-promotion is ripe and is responsible not only for board failures but also for corporate disaster. 

Imagine the following scenario. You have a great delivery driver. His van is the cleanest. He is always on time for work. His deliveries are 100 per cent accurate. Customers love him and he gets on well with all other drivers. So what do you do? You make him transport manager.

Here’s why that could end in disaster:

  • He has no training
  • He doesn’t want the responsibility
  • He no longer just has himself to sort out but a load of guys who were his friends and now he is their boss
  • He has no customer contact and he used to like that
What happens?

  • He leaves (you lose a great driver)
  • He starts alienating the rest of the drivers and can’t cope so goes off sick
A manager must be largely operational, focused on the performance of their department. They must be hands-on when needed and have an eye for detail. Implementation is the name of the game as is budget management. 

A director, on the other hand, must be strategic and consider the whole business. They’re not hands-on with day-to-day matters but must be corporately aware in terms of governance plus legal compliance.

To hold both positions requires a chameleon-like personality. 

You’ve been warned.

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