What if our standard perception of management is backwards? I recently heard a theory that for teams under about twenty people, it’s less that a leader is managing their employees and more that their employees have figured out how to manage their leader.
For example, employees are often skilled at understanding exactly how their leaders operate and what they want, and then behaving and performing accordingly. For leaders, this can be a helpful reframe: management becomes not just a series of actions (meetings, check-ins, performance reviews, etc.), but rather something more interpersonal: setting good examples, modeling positive behavior, and proactively creating consistency around expectations, behaviors, incentives, and consequences.
Leaders and managers might not be as skilled or have as much control as they’d like to think. But instead of overcorrecting, it may be best to embrace this fact and focus on designing environments where this kind of upward management is directed toward what’s best for the company.