Manager of managers — Leverage is a double-edged sword

Nitin Dhar
Total Engineering Management
2 min readFeb 5, 2024

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In my previous post, I talked about what changes to expect when managing managers. We briefly mentioned topics like “output vs. outcome” and “EM/PM partnership facilitation” — these will be topics for future posts. Today, let’s talk about leverage.

credit: invizbiz.com/blog/the-concept-of-leverage/

What is ‘leverage’?

I concluded the previous post with the following statement:

‘leverage’ — a concept that is both potent and complex

So let’s unpack the above by first aligning on what I mean by ‘leverage’ so we have a shared understanding.

I think of ‘leverage’ as the ability to deploy resources towards an outcome, whilst reducing wastage.

What makes leverage double-edged?

Applying leverage towards the right outcome leads to positive results. However, the selected outcome is often suboptimal or untimely, in which case, applying leverage can be hugely detrimental, leading to wastage and missed opportunities.

As a senior leader, you will likely have a broad scope of responsibility. This means you may be able to deploy more resources, and have a much wider blast radius compared to front-line managers. This underscores a key distinction in how leverage applies to you.

It is this ‘double-edged sword’ nature of leverage that makes it complicated and risky. Yep, you are a manager of risk!

One way to mitigate this risk is by staying close to the ‘ground truth’. Actively seeking customer feedback (e.g. jumping on customer calls) and staying close to business partners is how I’ve done that in the past. Being liberated from the day-to-day operational noise has also helped with this.

The learning continues in…

If you have any thoughts or experiences to add, let me know! Respond to this post or let me know on LinkedIn. I’m happy to talk about anything software engineering related.

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Nitin Dhar
Total Engineering Management

Senior Engineering Manager, Valuations @ Carta. Building an EM Pocket Guide. Girl dad + Indie hacker. Thoughts are my own.