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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