So You Want to Be a Manager? Part II – Five Wrong Reasons for Becoming a Manager

Wrong WayIt’s important to be motivated by the right reasons if you’re considering a move into management. As I wrote about last week, the nature of managerial work is vastly different from that of an individual contributor, and if you’re motivated to become a manager by the wrong reasons, you’ll find that you’re either ill-equipped for the role or you simply don’t enjoy it.

Now let me preface my comments with the following disclaimer: The reasons I list below aren’t wrong (or right) in and of themselves. They will certainly be factors under consideration when making the decision to become a manager, but what’s important is your motivation behind why these are factors in your decision.

With that being said, here are five wrong reasons for wanting to become a manager:

1. Money – Most of us wouldn’t turn down a raise if offered one, but it’s important to remember that money is an extrinsic motivator. It will motivate and satisfy us in the short-term, but it won’t sustain our performance over the long run. More importantly, money won’t stoke the internal passion that’s necessary to thrive in a leadership role. The demands of the role will quickly make you feel like you’re underpaid (and you probably are underpaid which makes the dissatisfaction even worse!).

2. Title – Some personalities could care less about their job title. To others a title represents status, importance, significance, or achievement in their work. Whatever your view, titles are ultimately just words on your business card, name tag, or office door. A title may represent a position you hold, but it doesn’t equal the respect and trust you have to earn as a manager. If you’re in it for only the title, your people will see through the facade of your leadership.

3. Advancement – If becoming a manager is just a temporary way station on your journey to total corporate domination, I would suggest you find an alternate route. The people you would be leading deserve a manager who is truly committed to helping them perform their best and not one who is only biding time until his/her next crowning achievement. There are other ways to grow and advance in an organization besides moving into a management role.

4. Benefits or Perks – Managers get extra benefits or perks? I must have missed that memo. Granted, being in a leadership role sometimes allows you to hobnob with other leaders and executives in the company, and it certainly puts you closer to being “in the know” about certain things, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Every role has its advantages and disadvantages, and the perceived perks of being a manager come with many other responsibilities that aren’t very glamorous.

5. Power – Henry Kissinger said that “power is the great aphrodisiac.” The power that comes along with being the boss, no matter how limited and inconsequential it may be, is attractive to many people. Used in the right way, managerial power can be a potent force for positively influencing those you lead. But there is also a dark side to that force. (Can’t help but throw in a Darth Vader quote: “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side.”) If you view power as a means to satisfy your own needs (like Darth Vader), rather than a tool to be used in the service of others (like Yoda), it’s the wrong reason to become a manager. Ok, enough of the nerdy Star Wars references.

Like I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with these reasons, and in many cases, they could be factors in an honorably motivated desire for becoming a manager. But if they are primary reasons for you to pursue a leadership role, you might want to consider whether these motivations will be enough to drive your success, engagement, and satisfaction as a manager.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with these reasons? Give me some feedback by leaving a comment.

8 Comments on “So You Want to Be a Manager? Part II – Five Wrong Reasons for Becoming a Manager

  1. While I don’t disagree with these in principle, I do think that here are very few companies built to allow advancement without moving to a manager role – which is a darn shame. Only once have I encountered a company that named 3 kinds of managers – people, knowledge and project – all equal. Other companies seem to think very linearly about advancement.

    • Hi Mary. I agree that many companies don’t do a good job of enabling their people to advance without moving into a formal management position. It’s a challenge that leaders need to address as today’s organizations become increasing flat with less managerial positions and greater span of control for those managers. We also have to work on changing the notion of what “growth” means in an organization. Growth could mean job rotations, project-based assignments, mentoring opportunities, continuing education opportunities, etc. I like the idea you mentioned of the one company having managers of people, knowledge, and projects.

      Take care,


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  3. I agree completely Randy. If you look at these 5 reasons, they are all selfishly motivated. One lesson here is that leaders cannot be selfish. If they are only in it for themselves, they will fail. But if they become leaders to help others, their chances of success are greatly improved!

    • Thanks for your comments Jim. Excellent point – the key to successful leadership is to be other-focused, not self-focused.

      Have a great weekend,


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