Responsibility of senior managers to subordinate managers

Over the many years I have been personally involved in management and the training of managers it has never ceased to amaze me how senior managers fail to relate to their responsibility to subordinate managers.

Some seem to forget the subordinate manager is in the position to assist in the overall management of the business and the employees. As such they too should have responsibilities. They too should be accountable and they too should have the authority that goes with the position.

Sadly in many instances this is not the case resulting in unhappiness, a feeling of insecurity, a lack of trust in senior managers and a feeling of worthlessness. The problem is compounded in many instances due to the fact the senior manager is incapable of delegation and fails to place any faith in the subordinate manager.

The development of an effective management team necessitates the development of each member of the team irrespective of level and ability. Management development necessitates a certain amount of risk and unless senior managers acknowledge this and are prepared to take the risks involved there will be no development of subordinates.

What is the point in appointing assistant or subordinate managers if senior managers are not prepared to take on the development function? Senior managers have a responsibility to ensure ongoing training of subordinates through daily exposure to workplace problem solving, decision making, accepting responsibility, accountability and task achievement? This is why subordinate managers are appointed – in order to grow and develop as managers and leaders.

In many companies and institutions the current short-sighted approach of many senior managers is having a negative impact on the ongoing development of a pool of qualified, capable and confident subordinate managers.

Senior managers, who are supposed to be the leaders, are required to be visionary. They should be capable of seeing the big picture and foreseeing the future needs of the organisation or company. They are required to work with subordinate managers in order to address current and future needs. They are required to work with the management team to plan, to budget, to decide on required resources, to consider availability of resources and so on. Failure to do so indicates an inability to foresee market needs, to plan appropriately, and to work as a team leader.

“Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective” and directs others in a way that makes their combined effort more cohesive and coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying or sharing leadership attributes, such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills. This is an extremely important aspect of leadership which appears at present to be overlooked in many instances.

In order to comply, senior managers must of necessity learn to delegate responsibility together with the accompanying authority while at the same time remaining accountable.

When senior managers delegate they provide a framework and structure for subordinate managers. The subordinate is made aware of what is expected and what has to be done.

It remains the senior manager’s responsibility to ensure each subordinate plays their part. Senior managers must select the right people as subordinates because they are the right people for the job. They must then assign them tasks that suit their skills and abilities. When senior managers delegate they retain overall control and authority as they are still responsible and will be held accountable.

There are three elements the senior manager must consider and integrate when deciding to delegate. These are authority, responsibility and accountability.

Authority concerns “the parameters within which a manager will allow a subordinate manager to make decisions and take action”. Once defined and delegated the senior manager must at all times remain in control. While a certain amount of authority may have been delegated the senior manager retains overall responsibility and accountability.

Responsibility relates to the scope and impact of a person’s job. Effective senior managers delegate tasks to subordinates directly related to the subordinates experience and ability.

Accountability refers to consequences. The manager in a company, the political leader, the father of a family and every individual must accept the consequences of decisions and actions. Without consequences, accountability does not exist.

Senior managers need to consider if they have the right people with the correct competencies in the right positions? If not, then they need to ask why? Why the wrong people were chosen in the first place.

If the right people have been chosen senior managers must decide to trust them and give them responsibility and authority that goes with the position. Senior managers must have faith in their subordinates and offer ongoing re-assurance, support and development opportunities. Senior managers must never be seen to be undermining the position of the subordinate manager.

Senior managers are required to delegate while at the same time accepting responsibility. Senior managers must accept the fact, when they delegate they cannot blame others for their actions and for the choices they make. They cannot abdicate from the responsibilities they have been given.

Senior managers make the decisions to appoint subordinates and must take responsibility for this but give them a fair chance to develop as managers and individuals.


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