Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Do Psychologists Make Good Business Managers?

Do psychologists have management/leadership potential? Are there careers here?

Many people pursue psychology careers because they are not interested in business. Working with people seems more attractive than working to make, sell, or deliver “things.” But managing or leading in any business is really a people profession involving understanding, motivating, and communicating with others. So, the question arises: Do psychologists make good managers or leaders?

The answer of course is, it depends. Psychologists bring certain skills to the table (e.g., relationship skills, analytical skills, ethical orientation) that can serve them well as leaders, but they also typically lack the business knowledge and political and negotiation skills that are also necessary for business managers.

I just reviewed a book, The Psychologist Manager: Success Models for Psychologists in Business Positions by Louise Kelly and Jay M. Finkelman. [You can read my review on PsycCRITIQUES]. The book is really a sort of introductory handbook for psychologists who might enter the business world and wind up in management positions. There is also a good overview of leadership theories that are helpful in self-development as a leader or manager.

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Why do I recommend that this book is a must-read for most psychologists? Because most of us will, at some point in our careers, have to manage people. Some psychologists will, of course, go into business careers, others will go into administration positions in hospitals, and even academic psychologists will have to do their turn as department chair. It would be good to be prepared and know what we are doing when we get into those positions. 

Another reason why I think this book is important is because the business world (broadly defined) offers employment opportunities for psychology students, and it is important to be aware of these career paths. In many ways, psychology and leadership go hand-in-hand.

 

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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