In my long and storied career, I’ve learned one singularly important lesson about leadership and management:
I don’t want to be a supervisor.
Sure, most of these “leadership” lists include many, many wonderful ideas, but mine is simplicity itself. It’s honed by my short stint as a working supervisor and many occasional reminders from being dumped temporarily back into the job in an “acting” capacity. With a third of a career at my back, one of the few things I can say with absolute certainty is that I have no interest in supervising other people’s work. It’s unappealing in an almost visceral level. The way some people react to seeing a snake – that’s basically the way I react to even the suggestion that I should be a supervisor.
There are some very good reasons why people want to get into supervision – helping to set the agenda, mentoring new employees or future leaders, or exercising broader responsibilities. What I know about myself is none of those aspects of the job motivates me. I like getting an assignment, churning through it, and then moving on to the next thing. I’d much rather be turning the proverbial wrench than be the one making sure all the wrenches are being turned.
I’ve got the education and training to do the job. It’s not a lack of technical ability. What it is, however, is a fundamental lack of desire. If there’s any bit of accrued wisdom I would impart to the next generation of line employees, it’s to be damned good and sure being a supervisor is what you want to spend your time doing before you let anyone saddle you with the job. As much as you think you’re going to spend your days leading the office into a brave new world, what you’re really going to be doing is signing leave requests, approving timesheets, soothing ruffled feathers, running interference between your own bosses and the people you supervise, and generally dealing with three hours of administrative minutia for every hour you get to spend doing the “real” job you thought you’d signed on to do.
Some people excel at it. They have a natural affinity for the work. Every time the dark shade of that past life passes over me, I’m reminded of why it’s not for everyone… and especially why it’s not for me.