managerial leadership team building organization development expert michael cardus

Working with the ‘Mastering Organizational Complexity’ professional development class. The topic of accountability and whether it increases or decreases as you move up the Managerial-Hierarchy always leads to a great discussion. If we are to hold a manager accountable for managing staff, they must have accountability and the necessary authority to exercise their judgment over their team. Otherwise, you are handicapping their work and forcing them to feel unaccountable because they have no authority to do their work. 

Systems-Drive-Behaviors putting a manager into a system that forces them to be accountable when you do not give them any authority over their work only leads to frustration, burnout, negative behaviors, and poor quality work.

4 Minimum Authorities Every Manager Must Have

Manager: a person in a role in which he or she is held accountable not only for their own personal effectiveness but also for the output of others; and is accountable for building and sustaining an effective team of subordinates capable of producing those outputs, and for exercising effective leadership. (Jaques 1998)

If we are to hold Manager Accountable for the output of their team, they must have some control over who their teams’ are.

Below are the 4 Minimum authorities that every manager must have to be an effective and trustworthy managerial leader.

  • 1: Authority to reject a subordinate to fill a position
  • 2: Authority to deselect a subordinate after due process
  • 3: Authority to decide task assignments
  • 4: Authority to decide personal effectiveness appraisal and merit recognition
1. Authority to reject a subordinate to fill a position.

All managers should be provided the absolute authority to turn down any candidate who may be offered from above.

Not on personal grounds, BUT only if they judge that the candidate cannot do the necessary work.

By providing this authority, you can eliminate much of the tension and unease amongst managers.

Managers should not have an excessive say over who gets hired. What they should have say over is who they want on their team. This must be established through the employee’s ability to do the required work in that role. NOT from personal feelings, favoritism, or vendettas.

This is easier said than done.

2. Authority to deselect a subordinate after due process

All managers should be provided with the absolute authority to decide whether a particular person who is no longer working at the minimum effectiveness required for their role, whether due to loss of commitment, not keeping up with new knowledge and technology, whatever the reason, will no longer keep their position with that manager.

This does not mean that the Manager has the authority to terminate or fire the employee. The subordinate has done nothing wrong and cannot or will not keep up with the minimum effectiveness needed to fill the role.

Termination of employment comes from flagrant or repeated infractions against the organization’s regulations, policies, and procedures. These infractions are against the organization and must be dealt with not by the immediate manager but by an official acting on behalf of the organization.

Managers DON’T need to be given the authority to terminate employees at will; that authority must lie higher in the organization.

The manager, however, MUST have the authority to deselect individuals who are no longer working to the effectiveness needed to fill the role.

The general process for de-selection

  • Managers must warn their subordinates that they are not doing well enough.
  • Manager must inform their manager of the situation
  • Manager must offer to coach for a reasonable amount of time
  • If there is no improvement, the manager warns again, coaches again
  • Still no improvement – Decide to Deselect and inform the subordinate and the manager’s manager.

This process, when properly implemented, strips managers of opportunities to complain about subordinates and puts the accountability of the subordinate’s work squarely on the shoulders of the manager (where it belongs). If an associate is not getting the work done, stop complaining, institute the de-selection process, and start coaching.

3. Authority to decide task assignments.

Accountable managers must decide what types of task assignments they give to subordinates. Their managers must not bypass them.

If we are to hold a manager accountable for the output of their subordinates, the ability to decide on delegation and planning of tasks is necessary.

4. Authority to decide personal effectiveness appraisal and merit recognition

Emphasis on the phrase ‘To Decide.’ The decision is determining and deciding the level of effectiveness of a subordinate in their role at work. All that can be expected of people at work is to do their best; the manager is to be held accountable for the output of their team. This decision of “is the employee doing their best” can only be made by the direct manager.

If, during the effectiveness appraisal, or sooner, the manager determines that the subordinate is not doing their best, then the process of coaching and possibly de-selection takes place. The other area is merit recognition, pay increases based upon the effectiveness of the employee. Again, the manager must decide the proper level based on the effectiveness appraisal.

Without the 4 minimum, managerial authorities described above, you cannot truly hold managers accountable for the output of their subordinates. If managers are genuinely accountable, they must have the 4 authorities and the proper training and development to use them.

image by CarbonNYC


  • Jaques, E. (1998). Requisite organization.