How to Convince Your Boss You Should Be a Manager

You don’t need management experience to have leadership potential

Jessica Powell
Forge
Published in
4 min readJan 28, 2020

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An illustration of a person walking up building blocks and holding the block for the next step.
Illustration: Simo Liu

Jessica Powell, the former Google vice president who wrote The Big Disruption and told you how to quit your job, is here to answer your common but tricky work questions. Check back every other week for more management advice with a tech inflection.

I’m an individual contributor at a growing company. Some of my peers have recently been promoted into management roles, and I’d like to be considered for a management position, too. How do I make the case for myself if I’ve never managed anyone before?

InIn an ideal world, you would never have to tout your managerial potential to your bosses. It would be obvious that with your brilliant individual performance, collaborative working style, and leaderlike behavior, you were a natural pick to become a manager.

That happens for some people. But quite often, who does and doesn’t get picked to be a manager is driven by a number of things — from the reasonable (for example, a specific skill set or geographic location is needed for a specific managerial role) to the unfair (for example, favoritism, whose work is most visible to the boss’s boss, or who fits the company’s typical manager profile in terms of age, race, gender, etc.).

That said, there are definitely ways to improve your chances at getting a shot at a managerial role. For the purpose of this column, I’m going to assume that you’re already an amazing performer. If that’s not the case, I would start there — people who are poor performers don’t tend to be elevated to managerial roles.

Express your intent

First and foremost, make your wishes known to your manager. You can’t assume that your manager already knows you want this. But if you politely and productively ask what qualities or increased responsibilities they‘d like to see you take on in order to eventually become a manager, you will have eliminated at least one of the barriers toward reaching this promotion. If your boss does eventually promote someone else into a management role, they won’t have the excuse of not knowing your interest.

Make a plan with your boss

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Jessica Powell
Forge

Technophile, technophobe. Music software start-up founder. Former Google VP. Author, The Big Disruption. Fan of shochu, chocolate, and the absurd.