There’s a lot of discussion these days around leadership, and No, this is not a political post. Families need leadership. Schools need leadership. Religious groups need leadership. Businesses need leadership. And yes, Governments need leadership. So, what’s the difference between leadership and management?
The view is different, depending upon where you’re sitting
I’ve been a worker, a manager, and a leader. These are very different roles. Much to the chagrin of our new high-school and college grads, you don’t walk into leadership in business. That is unless you start your own business. In that case, as Sam Walton, founder of Walmart famously said (and I paraphrase) “When I started my business, I knew I’d be wearing a lot of hats. I just didn’t know that I’d be wearing them all at the same time!” I’m sure many of you can relate to that. I know I can. For most of us, we start out as workers. Someone else is our manager, and that person, or another is the leader of the organization.
We manage processes
Someone has to be paying attention to the processes and making sure that the organization is running smoothly and efficiently. Someone has to manage the processes to that the end result is achieved. That requires management. Each of us needs to manage ourselves. We need to manage our time. Management is important, but it’s not enough.
How big is your boat?
Any of you who have seen me speak, had me do consulting, or read my books, knows that I love analogies. Just as using stories to sell helps the customer connect with your results, using analogies helps you, my audience, to understand the concepts I’m posting. When you start a business, it’s like getting an inflatable raft. You can manage that yourself, from inflating to getting it in the water, to rowing it around the lake. As your business grows, so does your “boat.” When you graduate to a rowboat, you might still be able to manage it yourself. Sure, it would be helpful to have someone assist you with getting it off the roof of your vehicle, or off the small trailer, but you might resist that, at least at first.
Here comes the crew
As your business matures further, you might acquire some crew (staff) to help you. You can no longer handle all of the tasks yourself. However, once you boat is in the water, you’re still the one at the helm, controlling the power and steering it where you want it to go. Eventually, your boat gets so big that you’re like the captain of a cruise ship. The captain doesn’t steer the ship. The captain doesn’t control the engines. No, the captain is scanning the horizon, directing others to do those tasks. The captain is leading, the other officers are managing.
Qualities of a manager
A good manager should possess leadership qualities. She or he should support their team, provide clear direction, outline the goals for the employee and the company, and help their team succeed. A good manager shouldn’t complain to their team. I once had a boss tell me that you never complain down the ladder. You let them complain up to you. She was really teaching me a leadership lesson. I also reminded her of that when, at a future date, she started to complain to me about something relating to her bonus plan. I said, “A wise woman once told me that you don’t complain down the company ladder” to which she smiled, and we changed the subject.
The best workers don’t always make the best managers
It’s great when companies promote from within. It sends a message that there’s upward mobility in the company. The challenge comes when there’s an opening, and the person who’s next in line for a promotion isn’t right for the position. The best salespeople don’t always make the best sales managers. That’s because the skills you need to succeed as a salesperson aren’t the same ones you need to succeed when managing others. You know how you work best. You know what tools you need to succeed in sales. You know how you like to be managed or lead. What you don’t necessarily know, is what each of the people you’ll be managing need to succeed.
People. People who need people.
When I was VP of Sales at The Knot, I had some salespeople who aspired to become sales directors, and some who were content in the sales role. The problem for me was that some of the people who aspired to be sales directors weren’t well suited for that role. Some were top performers, but that’s at the sales role. The sales director role is different. When you’re managing 12 to 16 people, that’s 12 to 16 different personalities. Each of them comes with their own situation. I’ve often said that we can control just about everything in our businesses… except people. People will have situations that inhibit their ability to do their jobs at the top of their ability. People get sick. Family members get sick. Pets get sick. People get married. People get divorced. People have babies. People’s significant others get to take jobs in another city. You get the point.
How’s your ego?
When I was offering a sales director position to one of my sales reps, I asked her how she would feel if one or more of her sales reps earned more than she did, because it was very possible that some of their top reps, due to their commission structure, could do that. You see, as a manager, your compensation is partly based upon what ALL of your team does, not just the top performers. It’s the same as the owner of a business. How many of you reading this have paid your people, while you weren’t drawing money from your business? In other words, they were making more than you. I’ll bet there are a lot of heads nodding right now.
So, what does it take to be a good leader? Here are 8 qualities that I’ve learned, through experience and observation, that make a good leader:
- Clear direction – a leader’s job is to give clear direction to the organization on what the company/organization is trying to achieve. Ambiguous direction will get you ambiguous results.
- Transparency – a good leader isn’t afraid to be open about what’s happening, good and bad. Transparency leads to trust, both from employees and customers
- Respect – a good leader respects their team and their customers. She/he understands that respect is earned by your actions. Leaders who demand respect are fooling themselves. You’ll get empty words back, telling you what you want to hear. But there will be nothing behind their words.
- Loyalty – Loyalty, like respect, is earned. Sometimes you have a good person in the wrong role. If you look for a better fit, and that person thrives in that role, you’ve earned their loyalty. If your team sees you firing good people who are in the wrong role, it will be harder to earn their loyalty. Have you ever been in the wrong role? I know, I have.
- Humility – a great leader is humble, able to share credit with those who helped her/him achieve those results. A great leader surrounds themselves with the best people and lets the shine. It is exactly because they hired the best people, that makes them a smart leader. Leaders who steal credit, or who don’t acknowledge the contributions of their people will never earn their respect and loyalty.
- Open to contrary positions – a good leader wants to hear positions that are contrary to their own. They don’t have to act on them, but they want to hear them, so they know all of the possible courses of action, not just the one they thought of. Great leaders want to hear the bad news. Bad news provides opportunities. Being deaf to the bad news is a recipe for disaster. When the bad situation arises, you’ll be blindsided.
- Responsibility – a good leader takes responsibility for everything that happens on their watch, good or bad. In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he says that when things are going really well, the great leader looks out at the company and says: “You’re doing a great job.” (paraphrasing here). And when things are going poorly, the great leader looks in the mirror and asks: “What are you doing wrong?” Leaders who play the blame-game, always looking for others to blame cannot earn the respect of their team. Accepting responsibility for bad situations is a sign of strength, not weakness. We can’t get it right, every time. But if we always blame others for our failure of leadership and clear direction, we risk having a team who plays it safe. Great achievements come from getting outside the safe zone.
- Allow them to fail – along those same lines, we need to allow our team to fail, as long as we’re learning from the lessons. I’m not talking about poor performance. I mean that we need to allow our team to make decisions and have a say in how things are done. If you’ve ever had a boss tell you: “Do it this way, because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” without wanting to hear your ideas, then you know what I mean. I once left a job shortly after my boss said that to me. Later, when I became the manager, I told my teams, first do it our way, so you know how we’ve been doing it. Then, if you think you have a better way, tell me. Thomas Watson, former CEO of IBM once had an employee whose mistake cost the company $600,000 (which at the time was a tremendous amount of money for the company). Afterwards he said: “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. “No”, I replied. “I just spent $600,000 training him – why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”
This is by no means the full list, just the ones that came to mind as I was writing this. My point of this article is that we need managers and we need leaders. Your team might be small enough that you need to play both roles (how many hats are you wearing right now). At difficult times, leaders have a chance to shine. Your people need clear direction. You need to empathize with their pain, they don’t need to empathize with yours. However, if you’re exhibiting the qualities of a leader, your actions will garner their respect and loyalty, and yes, even their empathy.
©2020 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC
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