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not great managers

Great leaders needed,
not great managers

Most organizations today are trying to reach new levels of competitiveness by downsizing management ranks. This means that remaining managers must be directly responsible for the results of an increasing number of subordinates. Managers typically try to resolve this problem by working more hours and/or increasing the number of rules that people must operate by. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of extra hours that can be worked before causing a severe downturn in personal productivity. More rules often lead to decreasing productivity as people give up taking initiative and risk, and resign themselves to complying with new levels of control.
In fact, most current management practice is based on controlling how people take action. This way of running organizations will become increasingly ineffective as the number of people in the span of management responsibility grows beyond the capability of best management practices to control. The solution to this problem lies outside the framework of current management practices.
Today, managers increasingly must turn to running organizations through leadership. And make no mistake, leadership is different from management. It requires a different way of thinking.
One way to distinguish between leadership and management is that management is appointed, while leadership is granted. Whenever you are relying on the fact that you have a position of authority over someone, you are being a manager. When you operate from the perspective that you have no power to get people to do anything they don’t want to do, you are being a leader.
Most managers don’t realize that the people who report to them have either chosen them as their leader or have submitted to being managed by them. The difference always shows up in performance. People who have chosen to be led always perform better than people who have submitted to being managed.
Leaders know their power comes from the fact that they have been chosen by the people being led. They also are conscious of the fact that people can revoke that choice at any time.
In addition, leaders know that telling people what vision to have, what results they should be producing or what they should be doing doesn’t generate superior performance. A leader must find a way to influence the way people think, rather than trying to control the way they act. If you learn to influence the way people think, you will have the ability to lead more people than you can manage toward more effective performance.
Before you can learn to influence how others think in any meaningful way, you first must gain their trust. For many managers, this requires a shift in how they think about people.
Management was founded on the principle that most people are not capable of doing a good job by themselves, so someone smarter and better than them must see to it that they do a good job. Management also is based on the view of human nature that people are not very motivated to do a good job. Thus, you must motivate them, mostly with negative consequences for doing a bad job. Most managers today would never admit to such a view of the people they manage, but the management practices they use are based on just such views of human nature dating back to the time of Frederick Taylor and his theories of scientific management.
To be an effective leader you must believe, at a gut level, that people want to do a great job, want to learn, want to improve the quality of their work and want to work well with their fellow employees. From time to time people need coaching to figure out how to best go about achieving those objectives, but you must believe they are capable of choosing what is best. You also must give them the room to learn from their mistakes if their choices are ineffective.
With this basic view of human nature, there never is any question whether people are committed. Instead, it becomes more of a question of, “What are you committed to?” This is a question that leaders ask consistently.
Leaders then act as coaches for people’s commitments. Great coaches know their job is to help open up new ways of thinking that lead to new ways of acting. They also know that superior performance is possible only if the coach is coaching the commitment of the performer.
Organizational success in a future defined by global competitiveness means building an organization of highly committed people and teams led by superior leaders at all levels of the organization. Only leadership can produce that type of organization. The future will belong to great leaders, not great managers. How do you define yourself in your organization?
(Paul Fraser is president of PDF Associates, an organizational development and management consulting firm specializing in accelerating change for organizations. Contact him at 381-5350 or 381-5212 [fax].)


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