A Case for the Self-Made Man

20th August 2012

We came across an interesting article from HRReview on the benefits of hiring a manager who has worked in the same industry as a lowly employee. An interesting and hopeful case for all of those people stuck in middle management jobs, hoping to one day excel to the upper echelons. We have summarised accordingly.

Research is emerging that companies would find more value and success in promoting a general worker than hiring somebody based on their managerial skills. The thinking behind the theory is that if you’ve had somebody in the same industry from peon level, they will have mastered both the skills needed and the mentality required. A general manager from another service may well have the credentials, but businesses now require so much of a personal and experienced touch that companies should now be opting to employ and promote from within.

The research was carried out in London and Sheffield, analysing the success of Formula One racing teams. As we all know, the Formula One teams aren’t just racers and mechanics; they’re essentially the microcosm of a business at high speed. The study has shown that teams led by former drivers or mechanics will find themselves on the winning podium twice as often as their rivals.

By studying almost 18,000 Formula One races over a period of sixty years, teams from Cass Business School and Sheffield University found that the team leaders draped in success are more likely to have been involved in the industry from a grassroots level. Their rate of victory compared to teams being led by professional managers, engineers and degree-educated individuals was almost double.

The study has taken into consideration individual circumstances and resources available to ensure that the results weren’t skewed, and top drivers and mechanics were achieving success across the spectrum. The researchers argue that this case study directly correlates to the world of business and is undeniably applicable in most services. They are suggesting that technical expertise and core knowledge of a firm’s values and methodology is more important than general managerial skills.

One reason for this could be the respect and credibility that a leader would earn from his team, having once sat in their very same position. Sheffield and London both claim that hospitals would operate better under doctors and automotive firms better with an engineer at the helm. Ideology engrained from an early stage is difficult to scrub out; businesses should look to populate their higher levels with employees that are consistently performing.

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