"Should I keep doing what I'm doing or become a manager?"
While I hear that a lot from software developers, it's a universal question. Should you practice your craft or become a manager? I'll weigh in with my opinion in a moment, but let me first say that everyone is a manager. As I mentioned in the post Walking the Walk, no one is as interested in your career as you are. By the same token, no one has as much control over what you do as you do. That's right, even if no one else reports to you, you do and that makes you a manager.
Maybe you're just really bad at it.
Just because you aren't managing doesn't mean you're not a manager. We've all had "managers" who don't manage and if you're not consciously and actively managing yourself then you've just joined their ranks. There's some good news though: You don't have to stay that way. As a matter of fact, you can become the best manager that you've ever worked with. There are tons of books on management and I recommend picking one up and applying its lessons to yourself, but here's the short version of what makes a good manager. A good manager:
- Knows what needs to be done.
- Equips the team with what they need.
- Clearly defines success.
- Removes roadblocks.
- Measures progress against the plan often enough to correct deviations.
- Manages up to ensure that the team is making the big boss happy.
Find a manager who does those six things consistently and you'll be incredibly successful in your role. Be a manager who does those six things consistently and you'll be incredibly successful in whatever role you choose. People who can make other people successful are both successful themselves and in high demand.
So start with yourself. Practice those six things on your own work and get good at it. Once you do, then ask yourself, "Do I want to make other people successful, or should I stay solo?" Regardless of the answer, you'll continue to be a manager throughout your career.