Jobs in Management, part 3: Managers Without Degrees

The formally qualified managers are relatively easy to define, but there is another important class of managers, and there are a lot of them. Managers without the normal level of qualifications can still be highly successful. They sometimes reach the same levels as the formally qualified managers, and they do it with talent and experience.

The self made manager is often a very different case from the formally qualified version, even when doing a similar job. In most cases, the manager without a degree is the person who's learned everything in the business by doing it. Many managers of their own businesses aren't necessarily well qualified, but experience makes up a lot of the difference.

Self-made managers show up regularly in middle management in corporations and private enterprises. Occasionally they appear as CEOs of major corporations. Their career tracks are about as variable as that description allows. No two of them are the same, but they do have common characteristics.

Common traits in managers without degrees

  • Strong experience in the business
  • Practical knowledge of all aspects of the business
  • Good business skills
  • Good administrative skills
  • Clear talents in their industry

These managers are essentially a hybrid of both specialists and generalists. Usually, they've had to run their own business, and they're so good at it that they can operate successful businesses without the qualifications. Practical experience trains them, and in many cases, it trains them very well.

The 'self-made millionaire' is usually in this group. As a class, they're the model of free enterprise, and they can prove it. They're extremely good at what they do, and they know how to run their businesses, often brilliantly. Many of them literally start businesses from scratch, and learn how to manage the businesses well as they go.

Career modes

They share career modes with both the generalists and the specialists. They have to be business managers, and very competent ones. They tend to specialize in their own areas of expertise, and can be true experts in their fields in exactly the same sense as the specialists. In some cases they are also industry leaders.

As managers, they create good practical business models for themselves. These business models are tailored to their needs. This is one area where they excel, and are sometimes imitated by other businesses.

The lack of formal qualifications is usually covered by hiring qualified people and delegating roles and responsibilities. In the modern business environment it's just not viable to ignore things like legal and accounting requirements. That doesn't really affect the management role. In fact, it releases the self-made manager from those tasks. The default career mode in this case is as a business manager, but always retains the specialist niche, particularly in decision making.

The self-made managers may seem like an anomaly in a business environment totally geared to the qualifications mode of management, but they're not. In practice, particularly since the rise of the Internet, they're multiplying rapidly. What's beyond doubt is that they're also highly successful, and that many have quite incredible careers. They may be the next wave in management science.