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Passing the Ball: The Player Manager's Challenge

Giving away authority can be a challenge. Sharing your influence and the prestige associated with leadership often requires confronting your insecurities about losing power. And if you're among the growing ranks of business leaders who must both manage others and meet personal production goals, that challenge can be even greater.

Largely, people earn their leadership roles through the demonstration of other job-related skills. You're a good salesperson; we're going to make you the sales manager. However, as demands to reduce costs and operate with fewer employees increase, more managers are taking on the dual roles of manager and producer. Now, as in this example, the best salesperson has the added duties of overseeing the sales staff.

In their book Player Manager: The Rise of Professionals Who Manage While They Work, Philip Augar and Joy Palmer examine how various leaders juggle the simultaneous responsibilities of managing and playing on the team. There is the Rookie manager who labors to do it all; the leading-by-example Players' Player who tries to duplicate his or her own success in others; and the Player Again who gives up managing and returns to strictly producing.

Because Player Managers receive little in the way of leadership training, many struggle to Freely Give Away Their Authority. Some cling to their old expertise as a safety net: I may not be the greatest leader, but I'm still the best salesperson, and they won't fire me if I'm producing sales. Many Player Managers have a subconscious concern about carrying their weight; they fear that empowering others will be viewed as shirking part of their own duties. For others, empowerment leads to micromanagement and second guessing, resulting in a lack of trust and the loss of employee initiative and creativity.

Player Managers--in fact, all managers--must remember that one of their responsibilities is to prepare their organization's next generation of leaders. Giving away some of their authority is a duty, not a dereliction.

A warning to organizations from Augar and Palmer: "Without more recognition and some help in balancing impossible work loads, more player managers will either burn out or step away from leadership challenges."
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