Leaders are bad Managers! Alright Leaders hold up, wait a minute, take a deep breath… calm down! I just thought I would title this post this way to get your attention and blood flowing a little bit. This is a pretty lengthy post however if you are a leader, a manager or a director of some kind, I know this will help you along the way.
I want to briefly share my personal story when I was working in Corporate America as a Business Manager along with another manager housed in the same branch office overseeing the team also. It took me a few months to realize that the way that I was going about things, in this particular office, would drive me to an early grave and if I wanted to continue in that role as a Business manager, I would need to adjust and tailor my way of working like the other manager. The other manager would sit in his office with his door close the majority of time and take calls, do reports, document the comings and goings of his team and at the end of the day, he would let me know who came in 10 minutes late or left 5 minutes early. I, on the other hand, would meet with each one of the team members, develop a personal game-plan for the month, host and attend networking meetings, perform coaching sessions using different sales strategies and even coming in early or staying late if needed.
As much as I needed to do all of the detailed documenting stuff, I just didn’t like sitting in the office doing paperwork when all of the action was happening on the outside. Really, when would I find the time to document all of my coaching sessions and 1 on 1 meetings, look at kronos time logs and know what time someone left for break or how long it took someone to eat their ham and cheese sandwich. To me, having the door closed, writing reports and watching kronos time logs, was a waste of time. The team was new and truly needed someone to engage, guide and lead them as oppose to someone watching their every move from literally behind closed doors and writing it down to be used sometimes against them than for them. Even when we would have an all managers meeting, I just couldn’t believe that we would spend more time discussing paperwork, the previous month’s reports, etc… than we would looking ahead, looking at the big picture and what we were doing to capture more market share.
I used to love it when we would be at the meetings and conferences with the “Big Guns” and they would mention my leadership skills and how as a leader, things with the company was looking up. However the company and the office culture was already set long before I got there and having a manager to manage the team through detailed paperwork and documents was actually what the majority preferred and was used to rather than having a someone come in to lead the troops by vision, trust and engagement. I was fighting a losing battle with the culture and was working myself on a fast track of burnout while the other manager would still be sitting there 25 – 30 years later with the door closed. I have always felt that there is a difference between being a leader and being a manager and when I came across this article a few days ago, in my humble opinion, it made perfect sense.
**Leadership and management are very different skills. Yet most of the time, we expect corporate executives to wow us with their detail-oriented approach to management and then suddenly metamorphose into visionary leaders the moment theyâ€™re promoted. It doesnâ€™t usually work out, says Annmarie Neal, the author of the forthcoming Leading from the Edge (ASTD Press, 2013). â€œA leader is somebody who sees opportunity and puts change in motion. A manager is somebody who follows that leader and sees how to structure things to create value for the company,â€ she says. â€œIâ€™ve found that the best leaders werenâ€™t really good managers. Yes, they understood the discipline, but they werenâ€™t the best accountant, or the best technical person, or the best brand manager. They can do it, but they have a way of [thinking about the issues] at another level.â€
Of course, great leaders canâ€™t eschew management altogether. When it comes to what Neal calls â€œthe act of management â€“ the 1950s and 1960s B-school management theory of analysis, planning, process, structure, and order,â€ itâ€™s important for leaders to grasp its importance, and know how to supervise. But that doesnâ€™t mean they need to do it themselves. â€œYou need to understand thereâ€™s a discipline called management, and itâ€™s valuable, and you canâ€™t just be chaotic,â€ Neal says. â€œFacebook figured that out and thatâ€™s why they hired Sheryl Sandberg [as COO].â€
Sandberg, with her wide-ranging skills, may be an exception. But in general, itâ€™s very hard to find top talent that excels both in leadership and management. â€œPlanning to the nth degree,â€ a hallmark of management, â€œbothers really good leaders,â€ says Neal. â€œTheyâ€™re trying to figure out opportunities â€“ whatâ€™s at the edge, the adjacencies, the disruptive space 3-4 steps away. Theyâ€™re making social and political connections, and that uses a different part of the brain.â€ Meanwhile, top managers may be too detail-oriented to thrive as big picture thinkers. â€œIt can be a hard transition for a really good manager to let go of those controls,â€ says Neal.
So why do we insist that leaders must rise from the ranks of managers? Neal says itâ€™s the misguided legacy of performance reviews and how executives have traditionally been evaluated. â€œA lot of organizational process today stems from management in the industrial age,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s almost Taylorism; letâ€™s â€˜widgetâ€™ everything. But how do you â€˜widgetâ€™ innovation? We have to step back and let the processes go, or somehow redesign them.â€
In Leading from the Edge, she profiles one older executive who was on track for the C-suite and took a major assignment to develop a new international market for his company â€“ a critical assignment, but one marked (as almost all new efforts are) by some missteps. â€œHe was charting new territory for the company and the company was evaluating his performance based on traditional, core, S-curve values, but he was off building these new S-curves. How do you value a new, never-been-done-before business unit?â€ The executive believes his career stalled as a result. â€œItâ€™s so easy to be a manager,â€ says Neal. â€œYouâ€™re rewarded for it, and probably youâ€™re safer. Youâ€™ll â€˜get better gradesâ€™ for it.â€
In a study she conducted when she was a top executive at a Fortune 500 firm, she discovered that â€œpeople who were out of the box, pushing the edge, thinking in terms of the horizonâ€¦got lower [performance] ratings than the people who could show crazy execution on nonsense.â€ Itâ€™s a huge mistake â€“ and a missed opportunity â€“ for corporations, she says. You have to be able to evaluate managers and leaders on the criteria that matter most for each: â€œYouâ€™ve got to change that system. You canâ€™t really want a system where you say, â€˜I prefer you to drive nonsenseâ€¦and that matters more than the person who puts their neck on the line.â€™â€
Finally, here we are at the end of this post and I must say, every time I read this article, I immediately recognize my growth from this corporate management position. I realize that as a leader, I needed to implement some of those other “managerial” duties in my business practice in order to stay ahead of the curve. This taught me further about having and using systems to work on my behalf and the things that I do best continue doing them.
Leading and managing is also all about your personality, your work style and people skill’s will assist you in what role will come naturally to you. Yes, I hit that burnout stage and left the company and since then have been blessed to create the company and culture that fits me and my team and the other stuff is outsourced or delegated to others that are built for it.
Here is a question; do You believe leaders must also be great managers? What about the other way around? Does it matter?
Thanks again for reading this post and learn, study and know your role as a leader, or manager and/or both. If you received some value from this content and if you have more tips to add, Please like and share with others and make a comment.
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**Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. She is also an writer and contributor for the books,Â Why Failure Is Good for Leaders,Â Three Rules for Making Yourself Indispensable at Work and Why Leaders Should Embrace Being Wrong.