Understanding what it takes to be a leader-manager

“Manage the system, lead the people.” — Max DePree, former CEO of Herman Miller

The purpose of today’s message is to get a deeper understanding of leadership and management (there is a difference) and look at the five success drivers that lead to being an effective leader-manager. There is no question that there is overlap between the two roles, which I will get to shortly. However, for the sake of simplicity, Max DePree’s quote above is a great summary. Leadership is all about people skills and management is all about the processes needed to run a successful organization.

Leadership definition

Creating environments that influence others to achieve group goals.

You will note that it does not say: “Influence others to achieve group goals.” You cannot influence or motivate anyone to do anything if it is going to be done right. They have to want to do it themselves. So, you create that environment — one where trust and engagement are the order of the day; one where individuals and teams follow through on projects; one where you don’t need to memorize the mission statement to know your mission; and this list goes on. The corollary to the definition is: People support a world they help create. Is it not great when a new directive comes from above and you can see your own fingerprints on it?

Management definition

Creation, implementation, and monitoring of processes.

You can have the greatest people skills ever, but you also need documented systems in place to run an organization. The point is that it is mission critical to be a leader-manager. If you put too much emphasis on one to the exclusion of the other for too long a time, sooner or later you will run into problems. The corollary to this definition is that: People support a process that helps them succeed.

There are five points of overlap that are common to both leadership and management. They are the Drivers of Success for today’s leader-manager:

  1. Self-direction: Leader-managers have a clear sense of direction. They know where they are going and have a plan to get there. They are visionary and results-focused. They live by a set of values and do not waver from those values.
  2. People skills: They know their job is to build people and make them successful. They clearly understand that the best processes ever are ultimately only as good as the people who implement them. They drive employee engagement at every level through encouragement and coaching. They have the ability to step on peoples’ shoes without hurting the shine.
  3. Process skills: Planning, innovation, time management, flow charts, problem analysis, decision-making, performance management, etc., etc. Effective systems and processes lead to a well-run company. “Gut feel” management just doesn’t cut it. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to go through Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Academy. It took two years and led to our own organization documenting and systemizing just about every process we have. Time well spent!
  4. Communication: Today’s leader-managers are extremely good listeners. They have a habit of talking in terms of their listeners’ interest. It is not about them, it is all about their people.
  5. Accountability: Is accountability a good thing or a bad thing? YES! If done the wrong way (unreachable goals/deadlines, an atmosphere of total disrespect and distrust, a performance management system that doesn’t even attempt to be fair, and rules that are vague and unclear), it sets everyone up for failure and disappointment. If done right, accountability can even be a motivational tool!

To wrap up, here is a quote for you to ponder from Peter Drucker, sometimes called the father of modern management: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

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