How technology is killing the general manager

What are the “hot” jobs of the future? The answer is debatable, but it is clear what is not hot.

The clue is in technology and how it is changing the very nature of how people work. One consequence seems evident: the classic job of the middle manager will soon disappear. Technology has become the great general manager. It can monitor performance, provide instant feedback and even create reports and presentations. Skilled team members are increasingly self-managed, so why have a manager at all?

This places another obstacle in the way of women who are climbing the corporate ladder. Doing away with some general managers mean fewer opportunities for promotion – and fewer chances for women to gain the experience necessary to qualify for top management.

We know that Generation Y workers see no value in reporting to someone who simply keeps track of what they do when much of that responsibility can be taken on by themselves, their peers or a machine. What they do value is mentoring or coaching from someone they respect.

There is little competitive advantage in being a jack of all trades when your main competitor might be Wikipedia. To carve a management role over the next two decades will require two crucial investments. First, acquire and build knowledge or skills that are valuable and rare – a personal “signature”. Then, develop new proficiencies or move into related areas of expertise throughout your working life to keep your management skills fresh.

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School. Her book The Shift: How the Future of Work is Already Here will be published by Harper Collins on May 13

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.