For years we were taught that management has to do with forecasting, budgeting, planning and controlling. Managers were taught to manage, not to lead.
New supervisors and grizzled management veterans were taught how to assign work to subordinates, how to evaluate their teammates’ work, how to counsel people on performance problems and how to hire and fire staff members. Everything we were taught about management assumed that the manager would know what to do and was calling the shots.
These days we understand that the old-fashioned view of a manager’s duties is wholly insufficient for the new-millennium workplace.
Responsibility for a team of people and its success — not to mention each team members’ well-being and professional development — is a big assignment to take on. Leadership has very little to do with controlling, budgeting and so on. It has little overlap with assigning work and evaluating it.
Our traditional view of management is task-based and mechanical. In that worldview, we don’t think about topics like “How are my teammates holding up? Are they stressed out? Are they feeling good about the future and about the energy on the team?”
For years we pretended that human energy isn’t a factor in a team’s success, even though anybody who has ever been on any kind of team knows that the team energy, also known as trust level, is the whole ballgame!
We can use the carrot and the stick to get people to perform for a while but eventually, if they don’t care about the mission, about their leader and/or about one another, the team will fracture and lose steam. It’s inevitable! Today we know that empathetic, trust-based human leadership is not only the most effective way to lead a team but also the most profitable way to run a company.
Here are five enormous differences between managers and leaders. If you hold a leadership role now or aspire to do so in the future, think about steps you can take in each of these areas.
The traditional view of management assumes that a manager’s job is to run an apparatus — perhaps a corporate Credit Department or a team of programmers. There are clear inputs and outputs and expected results from the engine each manager is responsible for. The manager’s job is to keep the machine running smoothly.
In that worldview, the people on the manager’s team are essentially machine parts. They are interchangeable. Once they are hired into a role, their job is to perform that role (to run their piece of the machine) according to goals and standards that preceded them and that will outlast their tenure in the job. The presumption is that the machine is more important and more powerful than anyone who helps to run it.
Leadership takes just the opposite view! The energy on your team powers everything you will accomplish.
The machine can change whenever it makes sense to change it, even many times a day. Maybe your machine should change, or maybe it’s time to junk the machine and invent something totally new. People are creative. Machines in general are not.
Leaders allow people to design their own jobs as much as possible and to put their own stamp on their jobs.
A leader is not working to achieve machine-like process perfection to be repeated over and over until the end of time.
A leader and his or her team have a mission. They all know what the mission is and they know their piece in it. Maybe at one point your mission is to replace your outdated Credit Department procedures with new procedures that are faster and simpler. Apart from the fact that they have a job and need the paycheck, your teammates know what the Credit Department modernization means for customers, for themselves and for the company.
A mission has a beginning, a middle and an end, no matter what the mission is. When you complete the mission, you’ll start a new one.
Maybe your mission is to produce an off-Broadway play or to invent a better mousetrap. Leadership is inextricable from a specific mission that people are excited about. Without a mission, there is no place to lead your team toward! Without a mission, where are you headed?
Who can get excited about doing the same things day after day, year after year, to no visible end except to make a few executives rich? There has to be more to the mission than that, and part of a leader’s job is to explore and exalt the connections between his or her team’s mission and each team member’s personal mission.
This is why I write about plugging into your power source at work, whether that means using a different part of your brain or getting to teach what you know or another element that important to you. We all need that power jolt at work. We all deserve it, too!
The old-fashioned, command-and-control view of management did not require that a manager look in the mirror, but leadership requires that activity of a leader every day.
A leader is someone who get outside his or her busy brain to see him- or herself rather than being controlled by his or her emotions, especially fear.
Fear is the emotion that makes managers freak out and bring the hammer down. It makes some of them yell at subordinates or put the fear of termination into them so that people skulk around in terror that they’ll make a mistake.
That kind of management is prevalent but it is the opposite of leadership. Leaders have the confidence to lead through trust. They don’t have to make threats. They can say, “I hired you and you chose to work with me so obviously we both trust one another, and that’s good because we will need that trust! I won’t second-guess you. I hope you won’t second-guess me. We’ll talk about everything we need to talk about. You’ll know your job much better than I do. I will learn from you and with luck you might learn something from me.”
Leaders know they are not always right. They have enough self-esteem to say, “Did I say that last week? I must have missed my morning coffee because that was not what I meant to say. No, don’t do what I said — you’re right, do what you know is best. Thank you for clarifying that point. Always tell me when I say something off-the-wall like that. I appreciate it!”
Risk And Trust
Trusting a person you are not in love with or related to requires you to take a risk. In the accepted view of management, there is no such risk, because the manager by virtue of his or her position has all the authority. In our modern view of leadership, there is risk. You might trust the wrong person. So what? That’s how you’ll learn. You won’t learn anything if you never trust yourself enough to put your trust in people around you.
Leadership requires you to rely on someone else without threatening them or offering them rewards if they do what you want them to do.
You have to trust their instincts and trust yourself to put your faith in someone who isn’t you. That is hard for a lot of managers, and it is something we should talk about more than we do at staff meetings and management training sessions.
We should talk about how scary it is at times to stop calling the shots and stop being the boss, and to let the brilliant people on your team carry the ball.
Leadership rests on trust and learning. When your team is powered by mojo and feeling good, the learning will be palpable. People will say, “Oh, dang! I just realized that your idea for the product brochure could be an amazing video, too! Want to collaborate on that?” All it takes for people to come alive at work is trust. When people are wary of sharing their ideas, it’s because they don’t trust that their good ideas will be handled with care. That isn’t a failing on the part of the wary person.
We learn best through our experiences and the old expression “Once bitten, twice shy” is nowhere truer than at work.
If the trust level on your team is too low to support collaboration, it’s vital for you as a manager to figure out what energetic logjam is causing that problem and dismantle it.
People have good antennae. When they don’t trust you, the company or one another, it means you have trust-building work to do!
When your Team Mojo level is right, you will learn from your teammates, they will learn from you and all of you will learn from one another.
If the manager is always the subject matter expert, too, then something in your environment is out of whack. That’s a waste of incredible life experience, insight and perspective that only a group of switched-on collaborators can bring to bear on your organization’s challenges.
Find Your Voice And Speak Your Truth
The last difference between managers and leaders is that being a manager in the old-school view doesn’t require a manager to find her voice and speak her truth.
I went to countless management training sessions as a young supervisor. We learned about rules and procedures and time management.
Nobody ever told us “At times it will be scary to tell your boss something s/he doesn’t want to hear, but you have to do it anyway — that’s how you’ll grow muscles and grow your credibility.”
We didn’t talk about that. We didn’t talk about the critical, soft-and-squishy parts of leadership. We had to learn those things for ourselves.
Now we are all coming out of the closet. We are all becoming aware together of the wonderful fact that going to work doesn’t mean leaving your personality at the door.
Even though there are messages hitting us from all directions at work telling us to hush up, pipe down and go along with broken systems and broken thinking, we don’t have to listen.
You may stay quiet for a while because it’s easier to bite your lip than to start a conversation that might tag you as a troublemaker, but before long it will hit you that you have to find your voice.
You have to say what you feel or else you’ll feel like you’re taking a paycheck for the service of hiding your true personality and playing the part of someone who is only half as smart and half as human as you are.
You’ll get tired of that deal one day. You are too mighty to be a doormat, and it won’t help your customers or shareholders for you to stay silent when there are topics that desperately need airtime.
Speak up! That’s what leaders do. Everyone is a leader, and everyone is CEO of his or her career. You run your life and your career.
What is your vision? What is your first step in reaching it?