Context is Everything.
I once directly managed a team of 60 people. Every HR consultant will tell you that’s wrong, and that you won’t do right by your team. A management catastrophe. So what was the outcome?
The outcome was that the team doubled in size (while I still directly managed it), and the employee churn rate went from 40% when I took it on to 6%.
We became a destination employer. We no longer needed recruitment agencies. We ranked in the top four agencies in Europe. We had a heck of a ride along the way. (BTW – I don’t by any stretch of the imagination attribute all of those to what I did, we had a lot going on from some very talented people. But it certainly helped.)
So is my recommendation to remove middle management and directly manage your team into the dozens? I was recently talking to a company about its management, and they (cynically) asked if that would be my recommendation to their leadership team.
What most leadership advice doesn’t talk about is the importance of context. I did what I did because they were extreme times. 40% churn in a consultancy can bankrupt you. And is extremely unpleasant to the team. Extreme times demand extreme measures. Especially from leaders. And more so from leaders who care.
Leaders need both self knowledge, and sensitivity to their environment. Between those two, you navigate to the best answer. Regardless of what anyone tells you about authenticity or vulnerability or starting with why or agile leadership or command and control. If you want to lead, use your own brain and gut.