My value add? ... Good managers DO NOT need to be past technical experts! Some of my best managers (in my technical life) have been non-tech backgrounds. They knew how to mange and lead. Emphasis here is on both MANAGE and LEAD. Technical attributes are a 'nice to have'.
Over the years, I too have worked for a broad range of managers, and like most others, walked ASAP if things were bad and did not improve. Many companies and departments do not have the mechanisms in place to notice these sort of trends as they only care about short term results, and not notice how they got them. It is not intentional, it is just the way their management practices are set up.
My one note of value here is that the best places I have worked at, invested and supported leadership training. The places that did not, well I have a fovourite comment from a co-worker many years ago that these places "are like cess pools, where all the $#!& floats to the top" unchecked.
Good management characteristics? Honesty, positive cameraderie, integrity, and professionalism.
I believe the good manager is the person who can understand what is your capibility, but not your past project experience. He listen your feedback and complient but does not really need to do any reaction. He doesn't need to know much about the technical detail, as long as he knows how to put his resource (people) in right position.
I once had such excellent manager.
The article ends with a note about trust and respect, which are essential for companies that want to move forward.
A good summary of this idea is found in the book 'Heroic Environment'.
I'm not sure how many developers work for companies that hold these values highly, but would be interested to know if they exist...
Spudmasher, I'm a bit of a student of managing people. Having gone to the US Naval Academy, I received excellent leadership training (which does not imply that I'm an excellent leader...in fact, I prefer the tech side of the business because management is 'hard' . Having spent over 15 years in the tech industry, I have observed corporate management in many different environments. I would submit that being an exceptional manager in the corporate world requires two vary disparate skill sets. I've met many managers that have a natural ability in one or the other, but very few people are good at both.
Administration is an important part of management. The ability to 'move the machine' is a big part of the job, whether you are removing obstacles, arguing for part of the merit pool to reward your people or merely ordering equipment and other resources. I've had good administrative managers who made sure I had what I needed to get the job done & made sure that my team was fully supported by the company. Often, they were so busy with the administrative tasks that they spent little time building a relationship with their team. Employees were committed to the company & to their own efforts, but were not particularly invested in their manager or the team.
Leadership is a different animal. The ability to inspire your employees to be passionate about what they do, the ability to encourage them in growing their skills and the ability to create an environment that is high energy & 'fun' does not ensure that you are good at administration. I've worked on teams that had good 'leaders', including a few that the team would 'walk through fire' for. One in particular was proud of our accomplishments and we were extremely loyal to the manager, often putting in extra effort to support him & the team. We often joked that our job was to 'make him look good' (which I actually believe is every employees job...to make their manager/team/company 'look good' to the best of their ability). Unfortunately, many team members were not very happy with the company. The team tended to have an 'us against the world' attitude due to decisions made by the company that were not supportive of our team. Our manager was not particularly adept at administration and therefore, was not taken seriously by upper management. I often wish I could have taken this manager with me when I left.
I recently worked for a manager who was good at removing obstacles & getting whatever support the team needed. He was also committed to generating enthusiasm and worked hard at developing a high energy, 'fun' atmosphere. He hired for 'team fit' and energy/commitment, assuming that you could 'teach' software development, but team chemistry was an art. My only complaint about him is that he had '6 years of sw development experience' in one discipline and felt that all sw problems were essentially the same & could be solved the same way, with the same toolset. His insistence on estimating every project as if it had the same technical challenges, the same set of development skills available & the same burn rate regardless of the number of developers (& their corresponding skill levels) assigned created a lot of expectations that were impossible to meet. It was one of the most enjoyable/frustrating experiences of my career.
I agree that someone with a technical background will tend to do a better job managing technical teams (though not always). I believe that both administrative & leadership skills can be taught/developed. As a new manager, I would encourage you to assess your skills and determine which skill set you currently favor & focus on training/developing the other set of skills...(here comes the hard part)...without neglecting your areas of strength. I would also encourage you to realize that managers are just people and we all have our good days & bad days. Good managers can have bad days or make bad decisions & occassionally, much as it might pain us to admit it, bad managers can actually 'get it right' sometimes. Don't be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes, especially if you happen to get flack from above when you make them. I'm pulling for you to become one of the 'good managers'! I would love to believe that someday there will be an opportunity to work for another manager who is committed to both skill sets...especially when most companies favor the administrative skills, because they tend to have a greater short term impact. Best of luck on your new adventure!