The Trouble with Managing People

I write about this topic from time-to-time but it never gets old. People still make this leadership mistake with great regularity.

 

The mistake they make is trying to use their leadership position to manage people. Let me say this yet again: managing people is impossible. People refuse to be managed, they want to be led. 

 

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge the difference between managing and leading I say this: you are doomed to a life of limited leadership. Worse, you have sentenced the people you are supposed to be leading to a life of limited potential.

 

It really is that big of a deal that you understand the very real difference between managing and leading.

 

You manage things. Things like a budget, a building, and a process. You manage things that don’t think, don’t have feelings, don’t have goals and objectives, and don’t care one iota what you think of them. 

 

But people do think, they do have feelings, they (hopefully) have goals and objectives. And they care what you as their leader think of them. That’s why they must be led, not managed.

 

People who feel managed are most always under-performers. Even if they are doing well they would do better if they were led instead of managed. People who feel managed are frequently said to be “problem people” in their workplace. The truth is that they are unlikely to be the actual problem. It’s far more likely that the problem is the person who is supposed to be leading them but is managing them instead. 

 

There are people who would tell you that the difference between managing and leading is pure semantics. But they would be mistaken. The differences are substantial and one of the biggest ones is mindset. Managers can afford to be dispassionate, in fact it’s a strength for managers. Leaders must be passionate. They have to truly care about the people they lead. They have to be as motivated to help their people succeed as they are to succeed themselves. 

 

A management mindset sees people as an asset or as capital to be used. Managers think in terms of “spending time on” their people when their people need help. A leadership mindset sees people as a human being to be nurtured and developed. Leaders think of “investing time with” their people when their people need help. 

 

The difference in outcomes produced by those two mindsets is like night and day. 

 

I know you’re not going to like this but if you have “problem people” in your organization then you need to make certain that you are not the root of the problem. If you’re trying to manage your people then the “problem” with your people is most likely you.


Leaders lead people and managers manage stuff. The best leaders know how…and when, to manage and the best managers know how…and when, to lead. There’s no crime in not being able to do both, you just have to acknowledge it and not try to manage people who need to be led.

 

 

What Motivates Your People?

I will often ask that question of people in leadership positions. Authentic Leaders have an answer. Other leaders have a response. 

 

The main difference between an answer and a response is the answer is based on what someone knows and a response is based on what they think.

 

Authentic Leaders know what motivates their people because they have asked them. Other leaders assume they know or they figure what motivates them will also motivate everyone else. 

 

Assuming they know what motivates another person is an all too common mistake of ineffective leaders. Every person is unique. They have different life experiences that shape their beliefs, their likes, their dislikes and their motivations. To assume otherwise is a fool’s errand. 

 

Authentic Leaders invest the required time to understand the unique motivators for each of their people. Sometimes that means helping their people discover what motivates them because oftentimes people don’t stop to consider this important question on their own. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that everyone is naturally motivated. Some people lose their motivation along life’s way and need to be reminded and refreshed. Some people just need help maintaining their motivation. 

 

Whatever circumstances your people find themselves in, one of your key responsibilities as a leader is to help them maintain or restore their motivation. 

 

There are leadership development programs that discuss “clues” to finding what motivates your people. There are leadership developments programs that offer tools like the DISC Test to help determine a person’s motivations. 

 

I’m not a big fan of any of that. I’m a fan of a leader talking with their people on a regular basis to truly get to know them. I believe Authentic Leadership requires that level of personal leading take place…frequently. 

 

If you want to know what motivates your people and how you can help them stay motivated to reach their goals and excel in their job and in life then ASK. The question will surprise people who have never been led by an Authentic Leader. Ask anyway!

 

Ask and then demonstrate another leadership characteristic they may not be used to…LISTEN to their answer. 

 

Disengaged employees can suck the life out of any organization. Unmotivated employees quickly become disengaged. When you lead your people to what keeps them motivated you give them and your organization a chance at lasting success.


Do YOU know what motivates YOUR people?

Do You Have the Time to Lead?

I consistently hear leaders, or perhaps I should say people in leadership positions, say that they cannot afford the time required to mentor, coach and develop their people. They are too “busy” doing other things. 

 

These types of leaders frequently say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Watch them for a week however and you would see almost no evidence to backup that statement.

 

Leaders who believe they cannot afford the time to develop their people miss the fact that the primary responsibility of leadership is building people. 

 

Leaders don’t lead companies, they lead the people who make up the company. Leaders don’t lead budgets, they lead the people who manage the budget. Leaders don’t lead plans, they lead the people who follow the plans. 

 

Everything in an organization or business is managed except for the people. The people within an organization or business are responsible for every bit of that organization’s success. Those people need leadership. 

 

Authentic leaders understand that they manage things and lead people. They know that the difference between leadership and management is far more than semantics. They realize that people who feel managed will be significantly less engaged. The morale of people who feel managed will be lower then the morale of people who are led. The growth of people who are led is much greater than that of people who feel managed. In fact, people who are managed have virtually no real growth opportunities. 

 

If you’re in a leadership position and you are not investing a significant portion of your time to coach, mentor and develop the people you lead then you are missing the boat on leadership. 

 

Developing your people is not a question of having the time. It is a question of priorities. If you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t have the time to lead then perhaps your priorities are a bit off. 

 

Make developing your people the priority it needs to be and your leadership will have no end. Fail to develop your people and your leadership will have no beginning. 


The choice is yours to make. Will you choose to Lead Today?


When Leadership is Lacking

Some of you will find this post lacking. You’ll find it off the mark because you believe that management and leadership are one in the same. You are convinced they are two words that describe the identical characteristics and skills. 

 

Before I write this next sentence I should remind you that I was a long time member of the Dale Carnegie organization. I believe in and try to practice the principles set forth in the all time great book written by Mr. Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” 

 

One of the principles says to never tell a person they are wrong. That is the principle I’m going to violate in this next sentence. I’m going to violate it because this is so important that I want to say it as directly as I can. So here we go…

 

If you believe that management and leadership are identical then you are wrong. You’re about as wrong as wrong can be. 

 

Let’s be clear, all organizations need both management and leadership. The same person can and frequently does possess both skill sets. But many times, they do not. When they don’t it is usually the leadership skills that are missing. 

 

When leadership is lacking in any organization then managing fills the gap. That creates a multitude of issues within the organization because human beings resist being managed. They insist on being led.

 

We manage things, things like budgets, buildings, inventories, etc. Things don’t care if you are ethical. Things don’t know if you say one thing and do another. Things don’t know if your’re abusing them or not. Things don’t get hurt feelings when you use or trust one of them more than the other. Things don’t care if you care for them or not. Things don’t get emotional…ever. 

 

Human beings have been known to be emotional. A leader interacts with another human being’s life. When you are involved with another person’s life and have any level of influence on it then that person wants to know if you care for them. They insist that you are ethical and fair. They need to feel trusted. They need to know they matter. They need to be recognized for their efforts. 

 

Showing you care, ethical behavior, trust building integrity, showing people they matter, and providing consistent recognition are all leadership characteristics. 

 

When you apply management principles to situations where you should be showing leadership characteristics you often make the situation worse. Thats why it is so important to understand the difference between managing and leading. Too many people in leadership positions lack leadership skills. Often they are not even aware of it. They unknowingly fill that gap by trying to manage people. 

 

Research shows that between 70 and 80 percent of people in leadership positions have fewer than 5 hours of formal leadership training. Many have absolutely none. Companies that wouldn’t think of allowing their people to do “things” without training regularly put people in charge of their greatest asset (people) with no training at all. 

 

That’s crazy when you think about it. But it seems that many organizations don’t think about it. 


Leaders who lead people instead of managing them eliminate most “people issues” before they begin. Don’t make the all too common mistake of thinking that management and leadership are interchangeable words. They are vastly different skill sets and so are the results that people will provide their organization when they are led instead of managed. 

Do You Know Your Leadership CF?

The best leaders, well I don’t know if best is the right word but the most effective leaders, those who make a long-term positive difference, have a high CF. 

 

Their CF is on display daily. They are intentional in making sure as many people as possible see it. Their CF is not merely a veneer they paint on when in the presence others; their CF is a part of their DNA, it’s who they are, all day every day. 

 

Their CF, or Care Factor is genuine. They truly care for the people they lead, in fact they care for people in general. 

 

Can a leader be effective without caring for people? Well yes, they can… for a while. History is full of examples of leaders who didn’t care about people appearing to be effective. The key word there is “appearing.” They appeared to be successful leaders because in the short-term, compliance can be confused for commitment. 

 

People in leadership positions can force people to comply and that compliance can and often does result in short-term success. The problem with compliance is that it lasts only as long as the leader. When the leader is gone, whether it be for a long lunch, a weeks vacation or something even longer, the compliance goes with them. 

 

When someone in a leadership position has a high Care Factor then they have the opportunity to authentically lead. These leaders don’t need the compliance of their people because they earn their commitment. When a high CF leader is not present the commitment from their people continues whether the leader is there to see it or not. 

 

It’s important for a leader to know their CF, they must know it and be consciously aware of the need to grow it at every opportunity. But as important as it is for a leader to know their CF, it is vital that their followers know it. 

 

That’s why Authentic Leaders do more than say they care. They show it. They get to know their people on a personal level. It’s important to understand what I mean by “personal level.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a personal social type relationship with them. It does mean that you know more about them, way more, than their employee number. 

 

Leaders interested in showing they care invest time in their people. They learn about their goals, both personal and professional, and do what they can to help them achieve both. They understand the challenges of their people, again both personal and professional and do whatever they can to help in both areas. 

 

The definition of Authentic Leadership will likely be debated until the end of time but this much is certain. You can care about people without leading them but you cannot authentically lead them without caring for them. 


If you’re truly going to lead then you’ll need to care enough to do more than say you care. You must care enough to show it!

Not Every Leader Leads – Part Two

In my last post we talked about following an ineffective leader. We also discussed working through the frustration that comes with that situation. 

 

If you can manage to work through the frustration and lead yourself you are way ahead of most people. Too many people spend their days wallowing in their lack of leadership. They should be focused on leading themselves to success. 

 

If you have the leadership skills to deal with the frustration of following a leader who doesn’t lead then it’s likely you also have the leadership skills to “lead up” in your organization.

 

Leading up is the second part of the process for overcoming the lack of leadership when you’re working with a leader who doesn’t lead. Here’s the thing about “leading up” in your organization; while it is absolutely necessary when your leader isn’t leading it is also beneficial when your leader is already an effective leader.

 

If you’re a leader at any level in your organization then you should be adding value to everything and everyone you have contact with. I know it can seem counterintuitive to help people succeed at some cost to your own success but that’s Authentic Leadership. If you can help anyone then you should help them. It is the right thing to do. While it may feel as if you’re potentially costing yourself a promotion or raise by helping other people look good you’re not.  

 

Doing the right thing is never wrong. 

 

So, let’s talk about the “how to” of leading up. First before you can lead anyone else you must lead yourself. Allowing the frustrations of your position or job to dominate your thoughts and actions is not leading yourself. 

 

You must maintain control over your emotions because failing to do so will have a huge negative affect over your attitude. When it comes to influencing those around you, especially those above you in your organization, attitude is everything. If you can’t control your emotions then you won’t control your attitude. 

 

To lead up in your organization you need to remove as much work as possible from your leader. That will inevitably mean doing more than what’s in your job description. It will frequently mean doing it will little or no recognition, at least for you. Trust the fact that someone notices your effort. Even in the very unlikely event that no one does you can take pride in your efforts because you will have done what’s right. 

 

Leading up requires that you have the ability to say no to your leader. Whether your leader is an effective leader or something less than effective they need someone in their sphere of influence who has the courage to tell them the truth. Sometimes that will mean telling them what they don’t what to hear. If you’re going to lead up you’ll need to find a tactful way to do that. 

 

Leading up also means doing the things that others are unwilling to do. Anyone can do the easy stuff; leaders who lead up tackle the tough jobs that other people avoid. Making a difference for the people above you, or anywhere in your organization, will sometimes mean sacrificing your personal objectives for the sake of others. It may mean working with people you would prefer not to work with. But leading up teaches you tenacity and resiliency that people unwilling to lead up with never know. 

 

The reality is that there are people in leadership positions all around the world who don’t actually lead. If you find yourself being “led” by one of those don’t allow your attitude to be impacted by the lack of leadership.

 

Choose to control your emotions. Choose to lead up in your organization. Make the choice to have a positive impact on those who could have a negative impact on you. 


All is takes is a decision to LeadToday!


Not Every Leader Leads – Part One

Most people reading this will have at one time or another worked for someone who is in a leadership position but doesn’t lead. Maybe you’re in that spot right now. 

 

So what does a person do when their leader doesn’t lead? 

 

There are three choices. The first one is to change where you work. Running from the problem is too easy and besides, there are no guarantees that your leader at the next place will be any better.

 

The second option is to spend every working minute, and sadly many non-working minutes as well, being frustrated with the person who is supposed to be leading you to success. That ruins your relationship with that person. Let’s not forget, just because they are a bad leader doesn’t mean they don’t have some influence on your future. Being frustrated and complaining about it all the time can also wreck other important relationships in your life. 

 

Friends may stand with you at first but after a while they begin to wonder why you don’t do something about it and they begin to drift away from you. Eventually your family may even follow them out of your life. 

 

I do not recommend the second option. 

 

The third option is the only one of benefit to you. It also has the advantage of benefiting the person who is supposedly leading you and it even benefits your organization. 

 

It’s a two-step process.

 

The first step is dealing with the frustration. You can’t will it away. You must meet it head on and take concrete action to minimize it. I say minimize because you can’t ever completely eliminate it (at least I never met anyone who could) but you can make it manageable. 

 

Dealing with the frustration requires that you understand it’s not your job to “fix” your leader. It’s also not your job to point out all of their weaknesses. Your job is to add value to everyone you come into contract with, that includes your leader. 

 

To do that you need to build a good working relationship with your leader. Look for things you have in common and try to identify their strengths. DO NOT say they have no strengths, some will be easier to find than others but everyone has strengths. Clearly somebody saw something in that person because they were placed in a leadership position. Try hard to see those same strengths yourself. 

 

Next, figure out ways to help your leader use their strengths more effectively. Do that while filling in whatever gaps they may have with your own strengths. Yes, you may need to sacrifice your own ego to do this but that’s better than beating your head against the wall in frustration all day long.

 

You need to take some pride in what you’re doing. It might seem on the surface that helping your leader succeed and look good is backwards. But if you’re a leader yourself you’ll have no problem doing just that. You are helping another person grow and that is the essence of leadership. 


In my next post we’ll look at the second half of the process. It’s the part where you “lead-up” and use your influence to help your leader grow even more. The cool part of that is when you help grow the people above you in an organization you’re helping yourself grow at the same time.