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I'm 35, have been in my company for five years, and am the most senior I can be without line managing anyone. I want to step up into management but seem to be having a hard time doing so. In large part this is due to circumstances outside my control: there is one job I could move into and it's occupied; senior management has changed repeatedly and lack of continuity makes promotion difficult - but nevertheless I think I must be able to put myself in the best possible position by identifying the key management behaviours and trying to model them in my work. That's my hope, anyway.

What can I do in my current non-management role to show that I'd be a good manager?

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    @JoeStrazzere You can't be great at hiring and firing if you're not in a position to do that, but, other than that, your comment seems like a good start to an answer. There are definitely some common factors regarding what managers should be good at, and one can attempt to do things to show you possess the necessary skills to be a good manager. – Dukeling Aug 12 '17 at 23:01
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    This seems like a good question, not sure why people are downvoting / voting to close it. The initial phrasing might've been less than ideal. – Dukeling Aug 12 '17 at 23:09
  • @Dukeling - The question is a little broad, but it's such a good question I'm in favor of keeping it. I gave it +1 – Wesley Long Aug 12 '17 at 23:13
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    @JoeStrazzere Well, how would you visibly demonstrate being "good at dealing with employees" as a non-manager? That seems like something someone (other than me) can write a few paragraph on. You could potentially provide guidance to more junior employees, look for opportunities to take the lead in meetings or for any given project, show that you "think like a manager" during one-on-one discussions with your manager or meetings, try to motivate coworkers or just generally be sociable ... seems like (another) good start to an answer. – Dukeling Aug 13 '17 at 1:48
  • All good points and thanks for your feedback on the question. This is my first time using StackExchange so please excuse my unrefined approach. The answer provided below is good, I'd like to question it and drill down further; how do I do that on here? – user75476 Aug 13 '17 at 8:03
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Sometimes the responsibilities are there up for grabbing.

My previous manager became so just by taking in more responsibilities that she should, and delivering. I followed her tactic and started doing the same in my current position (run meetings, create reports, do follow ups, you name it).

In a few months one of our executives talked with me to see if I want to (eventually) become team leader, and he started offloading even more tasks onto me.

Bottom line, how can you show you will be a good manager? By performing managing tasks within your reach, and doing it well.

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    Thanks, yes I see. I think the problem I have here is with the 'grabbing'. I see others 'grab' responsibility and it winds me up (and I see it wind others up too). I'm polite and orderly, and quite obedient by nature, so I find the idea of 'grabbing' responsibilities difficult, particularly because it's a little like toddlers in a play pen at my workplace. The idea of grabbing and taking in this way is uncomfortable to me. I prefer to behave with kindness and generosity to people, which can often become confused with deference. – user75476 Aug 13 '17 at 8:06
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    @user75476 Grabbing responsibilities does not refer to trying to take it away from anyone. Most companies have some jobs lying around that aren't done by anyone, you should grab those. – Erik Aug 13 '17 at 8:29
  • @user75476 Just to add to Erik's comment, these are things that you will notice in a position over time that no one is committed to. Do some critical thinking; ask yourself if that task adds enough value to the business to justify the time you will spend doing it, and evaluate your current workload to make sure you're not over-extending. No manager will appreciate neglect of regular duties in favor of side projects. If it makes sense to you to take on the responsibility, develop an action plan and take it to your superior for discussion. – jcam3 Aug 17 '17 at 19:12
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Personally I would divide the path for becoming a manager into two. The first option is for people who start directly on the mangerial path (started as Junior Product Manager, had roles that inherently involved managing people, or ones that got into managerial position because of their connection inside the company). Based on your description this is not the track for you, so let's focus on the second option.

During my career I have witnessed quite a few people becoming managers/leaders. These have happened because of the followings:

  • they were the most senior among their peers, so it was 'natural' for them to be appointed for leaders
  • they were in the company in the position the longest, so their seniority in the workplace resulted in promotion (note: this does not necessarily correlates with leadership traits)
  • emerged naturally, and the stakeholders recognized them

I will focus on the third option from the previous list, as I guess the other two do not need too much explanation.

What the 'naturally emerging leaders' had common were many things.

  • First and foremost they had superb people skills. They knew how to create a win-win situation, they were able to listen to other people opinions, and changed their opinions without hesitation if others convinced them (it did not matter if the other person was their peer in term of seniority, or 'just an intern')
  • Also, as angarg12 pointed out, they reached outside of their immediate roles, took the tasks that nobody else wanted to do
  • They considered their managers peers, meaning that they were not only able to discuss (in a respectful manner of course) if they did not agree with their supervisor's decision, but also provided solutions for the debated issue

This last point imho is quite important. Usually managers do not like complaints. However, if you make clear that there is a problem, you should also be able to suggest solutions to correct them. Another important trait is to offer multiple solutions for the problem, so your manager still feels in control, as they can chose with which option to eliminate the problem.

One last thing: emerging leaders trust the judgement of their peers, and are not afraid if somebody knows more than they do in a specific area. In these cases a win-win situation can be to split the problem in a way that everybody can do their best by focusing in the area of their expertise, but not judging the minor stuff (especially not fight over them) unless it causes more trouble than it solves.

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First you need to demonstrate leadership. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask to take the lead on a project. It really doesn't need to be a huge project the first few can be small projects with just a few other people contributing. Your goal is just to demonstrate that you can lead. Then lead and lead successfully. Leading a failed project is the opposite of what you want to do, which is why I recommend starting with a small project because small projects are statistically 3x more likely to succeed than a moderate sized project and 10x more likely than a large project.

Second you need to demonstrate leadership. This doesn't mean no conflict but you need to demonstrate that you can get people to work with you, If all you do is take away peoples tasks, or other actions that are signs of leadership failures, then you are not demonstrating good leadership. Good leaders can get difficult people to work with them, and get the job done with out taking over their tasks. It is not enough to just succeed, you need your team to succeed. Its possible that you can demonstrate good leadership and have your project fail.

Leadership is also not just making all of the decisions. It is listening to your team, and pulling in all their ideas and getting them to implement their ideas even when they are not the choice you think is best. It is not about getting out the best product here, but showing that you can lead and many times that means letting your team make some important decisions. And if those decisions turn out to be wrong, you step up and course correct while supporting your team. You probably do not want to call out their bad decisions, just step up and help them course correct and keep the project moving forward.

It is OK to ask for help! That is not a sign of weakness, but rather an acknowledgement that you can lean on others for answers. But, when you ask for help, you have to give that advice an honest attempt. The answer your mentor or manager may give you may seem like a bad choice or something you do not really like, but you asked for their help, now show them you are willing to try your best to take their advice. When you ask for then ignore advice you are alienating the people that are ultimately responsible for making the decisions that will get you into a leadership position.

Take some leadership classes. Many companies offer career development classes and online courses. Most of these will have to be done during normally off hours, but taking them demonstrates your commitment to becoming a great leader to your company. And make sure you complete any class you sign up for with high marks.

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I would suggest reading the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard PhD... a very short, concise book with a wealth of information on leadership....

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