Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Are good managers born or made? (1)


“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

Over the past decade and more, I have had opportunities to orient fresh recruits as well as fresh Management Trainees. Sometimes some of the freshly recruited “Management Trainees” carry themselves with some sense of entitlement as the few chosen ones to manage the organization in the shortest possible time. I quickly cut those entitlement attitudes in the bud before it gets into their hot-blooded systems.

I recently facilitated a program for a cross-section of bankers. During the introduction, mostly made up of Customer Services Officers, Relationship Managers, Tellers and Operations Managers, a young lady introduced herself as a “Management Trainee” with a flourish. It sounded funny at that time, considering that she had just been recruited as a National Service Personnel. She was quiet throughout the whole program but I later on decided to encourage her to be more assertive and attempt answering some simple general questions. Perhaps she felt intimidated by her seniors around.

The Two Schools of Thought

Some are of the firm belief that managers are born, while the others are emphatic that managers are not born but made.  As this is a relative question, there is no one single answer to it. In my personal opinion, it is actually a combination of both. You have to be born with a potential. This trait or potential then needs to be nurtured and fine-tuned, which is the development part. But you can be born with the underlying traits that make you a potential manager given the right stimulus and environment. Becoming a manager is a tough job and the toughest part is managing people.

Managers are developed

Managers don’t just appear out of nowhere, equipped with the skills to succeed. Managers need to be developed. And while your organization is likely to do a mix of external hiring and internal promotion, taking the time to develop new managers from within the organization is a worthwhile time investment. There are several strategies that can help you develop new managers, which ensures not just the success of individual employees but of the organization as a whole.

Making Managers

Many people have begun to acknowledge that most leaders are made rather than born. While a natural affinity for leadership is always appreciated, many employees need consistent practice and skill-building resources to become talented leaders. While it may seem that management skills come naturally to some people, in reality management is a set of skills which can be learned.

A manager is not born, but gradually learns from formal training, experiences and  examples that he puts into practice. No manager can be born as no person can’t have all the qualities by birth. Note that only when he puts his theories and learnings into practice that he becomes a manager.

The most important part of developing new managers is giving them opportunities to develop key management skills, empowering them to take charge of their professional development, and providing chances for them to apply what they have learned and to top it up, training them about key risk management issues. Developing new managers is a continuous process.

But Why Management Trainees?

A management trainee works under the supervision of managers and executives in organizations. Their goal is to acquire all essential knowledge to become future managers, often in particular fields, such as marketing, sales, or operations.

As the job title implies, a management trainee is someone who is in training to become a manager. In general, the position often entails spending a certain amount of time shadowing each position under the manager’s authority so the trainee can learn what each employee does and how all the work fits together. Trainees typically assist a manager with day-to-day duties.

The selection of potential managers for the management trainee scheme has always been great. This has helped create youthful and mature beneficiaries to climb the ladder of success and become great leaders. The only risk here is the following:

  • Were they selected based on familiarity, referrals from “Political Godfathers”, their own merit or with some hidden agendas?
  • Some management trainees get swollen-headed and look down on other staff, creating the impression that they are the few “chosen ones”.
  • Immature management trainees can be sabotaged, earn disrespect from other staff who feel they should have been tabled for the job.

Management Skills Can Be Learned

Successful management requires a complex, interconnected set of skills – time management, people management, interpersonal skills, and any industry-specific skills needed. It may seem that a good manager just knows what to do in any given situation. But like all other skills, management skills can be learned. Taking the time to get a strong sense of what skills a manager needs to be successful at your organization can help you develop new managers as they come up through the ranks and transition into managerial roles. Knowing what skills are essential for successful management can also help you better plan professional development for employees with managerial aspirations, as well as evaluate the performance of those already in managerial roles.

Placing the emphasis on the fact that skills are learned, not automatic or inborn, is key when developing managers. Some employees with managerial potential may be reluctant to pursue such positions because they lack the skills and fear that they cannot acquire them. When working with new managers or those aspiring to management, continuously emphasize that even those aspects of management which seem to come “naturally” to good managers have been carefully cultivated.

Create a Clear Path to Managerial Levels

One of the most important things you can do to develop new managers is to create a clear path to a management position. Employees who have managerial aspirations or potential should be given clear guidelines for how to attain such positions. Develop a management track that clearly lays out the skills, experiences, training, and professional development needed to qualify for management positions. When meeting with employees who wish to move into management, such as in annual reviews, go over this path and create benchmarks. Also include details about how to access training or other professional development. When creating a management track, including key information such as:

  • The key competencies needed for management
  • The average expected years of work experience for managers
  • Potential paths towards management through other positions
  • The educational requirements

Creating a clear management track is a vital tool for developing new managers. It provides employees who want to advance into management with a guide for the skills, experiences, and professional development they will need in order to become managers. Even more, it serves as a way to develop employees with managerial aspirations and potential.

Defining Clear Roles and Competencies

The first step in creating a management track is defining what managers actually do when they manage, and what skills and competencies they need in order to manage successfully. Spend time clearly defining the different roles that managers play in your organization. It is often helpful to look at job descriptions already on file, and also to briefly interview some current managers about what their work days are like. Based on those roles, create a list of core competencies managers need in order to be successful. Job descriptions and interviews with current manager can also be useful here, as can spending some time talking to lower level employees about their experiences being managed. Make sure that competencies are measurable as well, so that this list can be used in evaluations and professional development plans.

The Risk Management Perspective

This is a crucial part. Does the job description incorporate the risk management function and consequences of mismanagement. There are acceptable levels of risk in every organization but yet still there is a need to use case studies and risk incidents of the past to explain the organization’s position.

Someone can be born with a silver spoon in the mouth, yet be a terrible leader and a bad manager. On the other hand, someone from an “ordinary” background can have the traits to lead and eventually become a great leader. Please share your thoughts.



Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or [email protected]

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

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