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Cosima Laube
Cosima Laube

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Managers are wiser than average and subordinates are dumber?!

Recently I had a discussion where I was involved very passionately. It was in a group of people I trust very much. There I opened up and shared a story during discussion. A story of how I perceived managers during my first years being a software developer after university.

A story about managers...

Being raised in a hierarchical system, be it school, family or society - or all together - I firmly believed during my first years being an employed software developer: every manager, every teamlead, every department head, every C-level manager... they all must be way smarter than me. Smarter and wiser. In general, in everything and without doubt.

And why? Surely because the are in a 'higher position', right?

Over the years I learned more: no, they are not smarter per se... most of them are smarter or wiser in one or another area. Maybe in a couple of areas.
But: they also have areas where they are weak(er) than e.g. me or my colleagues. They do not necessarily show that - but they are. And if you are a decent observer, if you exercised your empathy skills on a regular basis, you will notice that.

Don't get me wrong: this is not gonna be a story about judging! It is sharing my learnings and my observations.

So if my boss is no "god at all", then we could collaborate, learn from each other, work on eye-level together. At least from my part.
And over the years I also learned to watch out for people in managers' roles with that very same mindset. With the "I am not smarter than all my employees" mindset. That's the only line managers I would work for nowadays.

... and some (a bit uncomfortable) observations...

Sometimes I catch myself thinking bad about a person's trait and in the very next thought I think how much better I am in exactly that trait.

I do not think this makes me a bad person - especially because I am now aware of that. And I catch myself, I ask myself: oh really, do you really need to lower another being to feel good about yourself? Not, I don't!

So it is not just about me here. I also observe(d) (former) colleagues talking bad about other people from other departments, talking bad about people with 'lower quality' jobs or education, talking bad about people's traits and appearance. Talking bad a lot. Ok, that is all too human, I know that from myself. And I try not to judge that as well. Just observe and think for myself.

... leads me to the conclusion

If I remember my deep inner beliefs and values, if I sum up my personal story about my former notion of managers with that observations just described... then it is all about respect and a non-judging stance [1] for me.

If we respect each other, if we do not judge but all together create an environment to grow and thrive... then we all can do great. There is enough space for all beings to just do great!

If we respect each other, if we do not judge but all together create an environment to grow and thrive... then we all can do great. There is enough space for all beings to just do great!
There is enough room to achieve all our goals - be it in business or private life.

We just need wholehearted daring human beings.

[1] In the language or mindfulness you would call this 'witnessing awareness' like in Reb et al. (2015)

Reb, J., Sim, S., Chintakananda, K., & Bhave, D. P. (2015). Leading with mindfulness: Exploring the relation of mindfulness with leadership behaviors, styles, and development. In J. Reb & P. W. B. Atkins (Hrsg.), Mindfulness in Organizations: Foundations, research, and applications (S. 256–284). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(note: this blogpost first appeared on

Top comments (3)

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Thanks for your honest sharing!

At my company, we have an unusual (and somewhat controversial) way of handling management roles: managerial positions are voluntary, and do not bring inherent promotions.

When we need a manager, we select one from those who are willing to do the job. They are trained to do the job. However, they retain the non-managorial seniority inherent to their department. Because there is no promotion with the job, they (a) are more like to take the role because they want to LEAD, and (b) can step down without it being considered a "demotion".

Thus, because managers are co-workers first, we don't wind up with the same attitude superiority seen in much of traditional management structures.

(Side note: business administration - keeping the "gears oiled" - is separate from management. Administrators aren't necessarily managers, and managers aren't necessarily administrators.)

gazebo_c profile image
Cosima Laube

Thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing your experience at your company.

The combination of taking a managerial job voluntarily and the possibility of getting training/support to work on your leadership skills sounds crucial to me for having success.

You mentioned your company's approch is "somewhat controversial"... could you share more about that?

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Well, I'm referring to the fact that I've had a few people (mostly outsiders) telling me the leadership approach "won't work" because it's too different from the traditional way of doing things. It's common convention for management to be paid more automatically by default, so there is some resistance to the idea that our managers don't. I've learned that, usually when you get that sort of criticism this early on, the resistance scales up as you grow (not that I'm worried.) ;)