In today's tough and uncertain economy, a company needs strong managers to lead its staff toward accomplishing business goals. But managers are more than just leaders — they're problem solvers, cheerleaders, and planners as well. And managers don't come in one‐size‐fits‐all shapes or forms. Managers fulfill many roles and have many different responsibilities at each level of management within an organization.
Organizations abound in today's society. Groups of individuals constantly join forces to accomplish common goals. Sometimes the goals of these organizations are for profit, such as franchise restaurant chains or clothing retailers. Other times, the goals are more altruistic, such as nonprofit churches or public schools. But no matter what their aims, all these organizations share two things in common: They're made up of people, and certain individuals are in charge of these people.
Enter managers. Managers appear in every organization — at least in organizations that want to succeed. These individuals have the sometimes‐unenviable task of making decisions, solving difficult problems, setting goals, planning strategies, and rallying individuals. And those are just a few of their responsibilities!
To be exact, managers administer and coordinate resources effectively and efficiently to achieve the goals of an organization. In essence, managers get the job done through other people.
No matter what type of organization they work in, managers are generally responsible for a group of individuals' performance. As leaders, managers must encourage this group to reach common business goals, such as bringing a new product to market in a timely fashion. To accomplish these goals, managers not only use their human resources, but they also take advantage of various material resources as well, such as technology.
Think of a team, for example. A manager may be in charge of a certain department whose task it is to develop a new product. The manager needs to coordinate the efforts of his department's team members, as well as give them the material tools they need to accomplish the job well. If the team fails, ultimately it is the manager who shoulders the responsibility.
Two leaders may serve as managers within the same company but have very different titles and purposes. Large organizations, in particular, may break down management into different levels because so many more people need to be managed. Typical management levels fall into the following categories:
- Top level: Managers at this level ensure that major performance objectives are established and accomplished. Common job titles for top managers include chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), president, and vice president. These senior managers are considered executives, responsible for the performance of an organization as a whole or for one of its significant parts. When you think of a top‐level manager, think of someone like Dave Thomas of the fast‐food franchise Wendy's. Although John T. Schuessler was elected CEO in 2000, Dave Thomas was the founder and served as the chairman of the board. He was the well‐known spokesperson for the chain, until his death in 2002.
- Middle level: Middle managers report to top managers and are in charge of relatively large departments or divisions consisting of several smaller units. Examples of middle managers include clinic directors in hospitals; deans in universities; and division managers, plant managers, and branch sales managers in businesses. Middle managers develop and implement action plans consistent with company objectives, such as increasing market presence.
- Low level: The initial management job that most people attain is typically a first‐line management position, such as a team leader or supervisor — a person in charge of smaller work units composed of hands‐on workers. Job titles for these first‐line managers vary greatly, but include such designations as department head, group leader, and unit leader. First‐line managers ensure that their work teams or units meet performance objectives, such as producing a set number of items at a given quality, that are consistent with the plans of middle and top management.