by Kathryn Dill

Prized for being ‘social-emotional experts,’ future managers may spend less time issuing directives and more time collaborating

No matter how much the office has changed, the trope of the boss has endured: Someone who put in years climbing the ranks or leapt between companies, propelled by triumphs in revenue growth. The best at charming new clients or closing deals.

The manager with the final say on team objectives and your performance review.

The person who could say without a hint of sympathy, “Yeah, I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday.”

Is it time for that boss to go extinct?

Cost-cutting measures first implemented during the financial crisis mean that the average boss today has twice the number of direct reports as a manager in the early aughts, according to Gartner, a research and advisory company—a trend that management experts predict will continue after the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, an increasing number of tasks that once ate up a manager’s time, such as auditing and approving expense reports, has been automated.

And as the conditions under which the boss operates have shifted—fewer managers, more reports, less administrative work—a new model is emerging. This boss is a coach, not a dictator, a mentor, but not necessarily because of experience with sales or programming.

Where previous leaders may have sought to stand out, these managers excel at fostering collaboration. It is possible they will be younger than you are, with less industry experience.

“Managers going forward are going to be less technical experts and more social-emotional experts, to help employees navigate the culture of the organization,” says Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner.

He expects that managers will continue overseeing increasing numbers of employees in coming years, as the past decade’s trend is accelerated by organizational changes driven by the coronavirus pandemic, including remote work.