It struck me today how management success is kind of an OR operation. So many things in life are AND: if you do this and this properly, then it works! But if you miss that one step, then boom!
But management is different. On the one hand, if you're a good manager and you align things just the right way, you can take a reasonably good group of people and make them massively successful. (Example: most big companies.) But on the other hand, even if you suck like crazy at management, if the people you manage are really great, they can succeed despite the way you've kind of set them up to fail. And of course, there's every point in between those two extremes.
But what's interesting is that because of this effect, when you do manage to fail (or your project is late, or buggy, or whatever), then there's always someone to blame it on: the person doing the work. Because obviously the person doing the work didn't rise to the challenge, blah blah, and look, it sucks!
I think a proper manager's job is to reduce the challenge, so nobody will fail to rise to it. But maybe not eliminate the challenge entirely, or else it's too boring.
UPDATE: I didn't like the old title. Sorry.