Yes, you’ve seen these discussions before. Classically, our org charts look something like pyramids. It’s human nature for us to think about career progression moving up the food chain.

Perhaps it’s ambition, perhaps it’s ego, but many seem to capture their self-worth in statements like, “I have thousands of people working for me…….” This classic hierarchical approach with the implicit idea of the power managers have over subordinates no longer works (if it ever did). We can no longer expect to tell our people what they need to be doing and expect them to immediately comply.

Then there’s the “servant management” theory of leadership. People subscribing to that theory show the org charts as upside down pyramids, with the concept of leaders serving their people. I think there’s a lot right about this concept, but it has always seemed a little contrived.

What are we as managers supposed to do? We are accountable for achieving our goals, we’re driven by that for our own personal success. But we aren’t the people out on the front lines selling, or designing and implementing a new marketing program, or directly supporting our customers in customer service.

It’s our people that do those things!

The only way we achieve our goals is through our people! The collective results of the work our people do rolls up to us, enabling us to achieve our goals.

It’s this critical issue that so many in managerial roles miss: Our job is to get things done through our people.

Let’s break this down to see what it really means.

First, we have to have the right people to do the jobs for which they are accountable. It’s our job to know the critical attitudes, behaviors, skills, competencies, and experiences necessary for success; then make sure we’ve put the people matching these into the roles.

We have to onboard them, train them, develop them to close any gaps that stand in the way of their success.

We have to set very clear performance expectations, helping our people understand what top performance looks like, so they know what they have to do to meet their goals.

Then we have to provide them the systems, tools, programs, training, processes critical to their success, not only maximizing their performance but helping them to be as effective and efficient as possible.

They’ll stumble, they’ll make mistakes, they’ll try and fail. Here’s where managers coaching their people constantly, helping them learn and improve, helping them constantly develop so they meet our current and future expectations. They provide feedback, to help people grow and become more effective.

Every once in a while, there’s a person who just can’t succeed in the role. Great managers have already done everything they can to coach and develop the person, but for any number of reasons the person just can’t succeed. Managers know they have to step up and take action. They know it’s unfair to the individual, to their team, and to the organization to keep them in a role where they can’t succeed.

Great managers move people from those jobs, doing everything they can to help that individual get a role in which they can be successful—even if it’s not with their current company. For the most part, they aren’t bad people, they’re just in the wrong job.

But the manager’s job isn’t finished with that, there’s much more in helping each person on the team maximize performance.

Great managers remove roadblocks and barriers for their teams. Even the best organizations sometimes make if very hard to get things done. Managers need to help eliminate those, to keep their people from being distracted from what needs to be done to drive success.

The internal complexity of our own organizations is often the biggest productivity drain on our people. Great managers do everything possible to eliminate or radically simply the things that impact their people’s abilities to do their jobs.

Managers have to fight for their teams. They have to get them the support, resources, and everything else necessary for them to perform at their highest levels.

Finally, managers recognize and get recognition for their people. They constantly make others in the organization aware of great performances and the accomplishments of their teams.

What I’ve described sounds a lot like “servant leadership.” Perhaps it is, but at the same time it’s pragmatic selfishness. After all, the only way a manager possibly can achieve her own personal goals is if everyone on the team maximizes their performance and achieves their goals.

From a purely selfish point of view, if managers aren’t constantly doing these things, they will fail.