The End of Management as We Know It?
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipDevelopment and Transition
Article Icon News Article
July 17, 2017
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipDevelopment and Transition

AMA Quarterly

The AMA Quarterly published an article, “The End of Management as We Know It?” written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Dean Stamoulis. The piece looks at the 10 things management can do to redefine how they structure their organizations. The article is excerpted below. 

Over the last few decades, organizations have slowly transitioned from promoting employees based solely on technical ability to recognizing the critical importance of soft skills. No longer does the best accountant become the finance director; now it goes to a solid performer who can also manage stakeholders, develop employees, and communicate in an engaging manner. At the same time that this transition has occurred, companies have significantly increased investment in leadership development, recognizing that not only do new managers need help to thrive, but that the quality of leaders directly impacts the performance of the organization. 

Companies have embraced soft skills and the value of leadership and have invested significantly to support this culture change. Things must be going swimmingly in organizations, right? 

Not quite. According to recent Gallup surveys, only 38% of workers say their manager helps them set their priorities, and fewer than one in five workers under the age of 37 [which includes the prime years when new workers need development the most] say they receive any routine feedback from their boss. Were you expecting more from your managers? Maybe you shouldn't: According to Gallup, only 35% of them are engaged themselves. 

There's a lot of truth to the old saying, "You don't quit a job, you quit a boss." In fact, Gallup says that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is directly attributable to the manager: Strong, engaged managers will naturally develop strong, engaged employees. Therefore, given the lack of engagement in the management ranks, is it any wonder that Gallup has found that only33% of U.S. employees are engaged? Or that slightly more than half of your workforce is actively looking for a new job or keeping an eye out for job openings? 

It's becoming pretty clear that our current approach to management-while substantially better than earlier models-just isn't cutting it anymore. 


For many managers, even those who are successful in their role, this transition to a focus on both hard skills and soft skills has been a difficult one. Unfortunately, according to research my team and I recently conducted for Russell Reynolds Associates, the next five years are going to get even harder. We recently interviewed 30 executives and thought leaders from around the world representing both emerging and established organizations. They came from industry, academia, and professional services. 

Despite their varied backgrounds, these executives were surprisingly aligned on the emerging trends that will redefine how we structure our organizations, change what we expect of our leaders, and ultimately require a completely new approach to management and leadership. 

Accommodating all 10 of these changes may be good for the organization, but they will certainly make managers· jobs harder in the near term. The 10 changes are: 

New executive roles. Taking a cue from the world's most visionary companies, expect new executive roles to be created to promote people, culture, and a focus on the future. Not simply focusing on the warm and fuzzy elements of culture, these executives will enable companies to adapt faster and compete more successfully for critical talent. 

Forward-thinking managers recognize that organizational culture is the defining hallmark of a company's brand and the embodiment of its core values. As a result, new roles will be created surrounding the creation and upholding of an uplifting company culture that helps drive competitive advantage. 

Role shaping and customization. We are growing used to everything being tailored to our own personal needs. From food to entertainment to everything in between, our world has become increasingly customized to who we are and what we want. It's no surprise then that many experts see existing management and leadership roles evolving to become more individualized and suited to a person's specific strengths. Although many titles may remain similar. role individualization will likely lead each leadership role and roles in general] away from rigid job descriptions and toward work that better aligns individual strengths with organizational needs. 

The growing tension between data and soft skills. There is growing awareness across industries of the need for complementary skill sets among managers. Its clear that Big Data is truly taking over the working world, and without question the executives of the future must have a strong foundation of data analytics and tech savviness to keep up. Equally important is the need for softer skills and emotional intelligence in leaders who have exceptional hard skills. The executives of tomorrow will need to be masters of multiple capability sets to be successful. 

The rise of the agile specialist. In many ways, adaptability is becoming more important than deep knowledge. Of course, this isn't to say that expertise is on the outs, but in a world that moves faster with each passing year, having an expert without the ability to move quickly is having an anchor in your organization. 

Going forward, leaders must become agile specialists, colleagues who may not necessarily have the same level of expertise as their predecessors but are just as valuable for their ability to act quickly and provide effective solutions to keep up with the times. These agile specialists are equally as valuable as leaders with deep expertise. In partnership, they make a powerful team. 

Egalitarianism infiltrates the C-suite. One of the most impactful trends shaping organizations is the shift toward the structural flattening of hierarchy in the workplace, a direct result of a cultural move toward egalitarianism and democracy in general. And so it is beginning to go with company leadership, with even the biggest companies dispersing influence by creating less rigid hierarchies and more channels for input among their employees. 

The C-suite is getting flatter organizationally, and the influence of each executive is decreasing, particularly in newer organizations. While this might look like a benevolent gift of egalitarianism, it may possibly indicate a growing lack of desire for responsibility or true accountability among an increasing percentage of the workforce. The real question: Will younger workers really want to be leaders? 

Moving from bosses to caretakers. We used to fear our bosses. Then we started having beers with them. In the future, our bosses may not only be our friends but our caretakers as well. Because many companies fear losing their talent, and because they have increased survey-based management and frequent emotional temperature taking among employees, many experts felt that compassionate leadership was becoming of paramount importance. 

As a result, future-forward managers are making an effort to put their people first, making employees· wellness and happiness a priority to enable them to produce their best work. However, this well-intentioned philosophy could grow into a dysfunctional [not to mention costly] burden to bear as executives take on an increasing amount of responsibility for employees· welfare, potentially leading to a lack of independence and resilience in the broader workforce. 

In a few years, we'll see employers begin to take on an unprecedented level of responsibility for their employees welfare, investing perhaps too heavily in positions and resources to sustain employees· physical, psychological, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. Smart leaders. though, will find ways to support their employees while continuing to develop their independence and resilience. 

To read the full article​, click here.