The Myth of the Generic Manager: New Personal Competencies for New Management Roles

by Christopher Bartlett, Sumantra Ghoshal

Fall 1997

Volume 40
Issue 1

Full Article Browse Issue



Today, the most urgent challenge for most companies is to develop the managers who must operate in the new delayered, horizontal, networked organizations to deliver on their complex, multidimensional strategic priorities. It is here that most companies are facing the greatest difficulties. The reason lies in the historic "Russian doll model of management" in which managers at each level are expected to play similar roles and have similar responsibilities, only for a different size and scope of activities. The underlying premise that there is a generic management role is being further reinforced by many companies currently engaged in the new fad of identifying a set of desired personal competencies as the anchor for their management development initiatives. This article challenges this Russian doll model of management to argue that managers at different levels of the organization play distinctly different roles and add value in fundamentally different ways. Based on field research in twenty major corporations, the authors identify the roles of front-line, senior, and top-level managers in the new organizational form, and they describe how companies can develop these new managerial competencies.

California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

Learn more
Follow Us