Are You a Manager Who Thinks They are Leading?

If you’re doing it for your business, it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people, it’s leading.

 

You would be hard pressed today to find many people complaining about being “over-led.” You would not however have to look very far to discover groups of people feeling as if they are “over-managed” on a daily basis. It amazes me that after decades of discussion about the difference between managing and leading most organizations today remain over-managed and under-led.

 

Much has been written regarding the differences between managing and leading. Some people, a few of them very knowledgeable in the ways of business, will still tell you there is no difference, that it is all semantics. The number of those people shrink every year. With the Millennial generation now assuming leadership roles it will be shrinking even faster. The good news is that today more people than ever, followers and leaders alike, would say that without a doubt there is a difference and it’s huge.

 

What is the difference? Let’s begin by explaining what leadership is not. It is not about a great personality or striking charisma. While a great personality and a bit of charisma can certainly help a leader’s cause, they are not absolute requirements for a leader. Leadership is also not a replacement for management. Both leadership and management are essential for success and that is even truer in challenging business environments. Finally, leadership is not a set of intangible skills that are hard to describe. Leadership skills are every bit as tangible as those of the most successful managers.

 

In a nutshell you manage stuff and you lead people. Leadership is about people, developing people, coaching people, nurturing people, and helping common people achieve uncommon results. 

 

Managing is about coping with the current situation. Leadership is about defining the future. Good managers use processes and control systems to make certain things “run” as designed. Leaders see things as they are and ask “how can we do better?” Managers follow and encourage others to follow the plan. Leaders develop the plan and that plan closely resembles their vision of the future for the organization. 

 

Managing is about helping good people do well. Leadership is about helping good people become great. Managers “assign” tasks to achieve planned for results. Leaders “delegate” tasks to help their people grow. Managers spend time on their people to ensure the tasks are accomplished. Leaders invest time with their people to enable them to excel and surpass the requirements of the task. Managers organize their people according to the task, in the hope that they succeed. Leaders align their people according to their strengths to ensure that they succeed.

 

Here’s a quick check for you. If you have a person working for you who is struggling and you think to yourself that you’re going to have to spend time on them to “fix” them, then you have a managerial mindset when it comes to your people. If however when thinking of that same person you think to yourself, I want to invest time with that person in order to help them develop, then you have a leadership mindset about your people. 

 

Well-managed people and organizations can survive tough times. Well-led people and organizations can thrive in tough times. Good organizations have people that excel as managers and people that excel as leaders. Great organizations have people that excel as managers and leaders. While the skill set of a manager is different than the skill set of a leader many people indeed possess both. They move seamlessly between mindsets as they grow their business by growing their people. 

 

True success as a leader is only possible when we realize that what makes us a good manager will not make us a great leader. The most successful people have developed themselves in both areas. 

 

What about you?

I Dare You to Lead

 

I dare you to lead…from right where you are. I dare you to lead…with just the skills you have available to you today. I dare you to lead…with the title and position you have today…even if you have no title and no position. I dare you to lead…this very minute! 

 

We don’t need more leaders in the world. What we need is for more leaders to lead. Most leaders today are leaders in waiting. They are waiting for the title that will make them a leader. They are waiting for “leadership skills” to somehow magically appear. They are waiting for the right “opportunity” to come along and then they will spring into leadership action. 

 

For some of the leaders the waiting may seem necessary. Others know that they are simply procrastinating. Still others are hiding from their fear of failing as a leader behind the safety net of waiting. 

 

Whatever their reasons the waiting is usually an excuse. No one who possesses the ability to influence another person need wait one more second. They can chose to lead right now, today.

 

Nothing makes you a leader but leading. Don’t buy into the myth that you need a lofty position or a fancy sounding title to lead. No title, no position, no timing and no opportunity can make you a leader. 

 

You must decide to lead. When you suddenly start leading there may be people in your sphere of influence who are offended. Lead anyway.

 

People like me can’t really “teach” leadership. We can only talk about how to lead. We can only explain the common characteristics of authentic leaders.  We can only describe the frequently repeated mistakes of poor leaders. 

 

But the only way to truly learn how to lead is to lead. Deal with your mistakes along the way, learn from them and lead better the next day. If you’re waiting until you are comfortable with your leadership skills and completely confident in your leadership abilities, then you may never lead at all. 

 

Authentic Leaders are often less than comfortable and completely confident with all the decisions they make and all the actions they take. They lead anyway! 

 

There has never been a great leader who was great on their first day of leading. Everyone learns along the way. Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough. Begin leading today and dedicate yourself to working hard to become the leader you’ve been waiting to become. 


I dare you!


The Look of Leadership

I was in a conversation with a colleague a while back and the discussion was about the relative leadership abilities of two individuals. We clearly had differing opinions of these two people and my colleague said it was obvious which one was the better leader. They said one looked much more like a leader than the other.

 

I think I know some stuff about leadership. We can debate all day long whether that is true or not but this much I will acknowledge without a doubt; I have no idea what a leader looks like. 

 

I have seen leaders of every shape, size and color. I’ve seen both men and women who were tremendous leaders. I’ve seen many people who never held a true leadership position who were nonetheless outstanding leaders. 

 

Leaders come from all walks of life. They come from every country, every economic level and every so called social level. A great education doesn’t make a person a leader anymore than a lack of formal education limits someone’s potential to lead.

 

Too many people get fooled by what they believe is the “look” of leadership. You know the look; they dress appropriate for their position. The say the right stuff. They are always politically correct. They smile a lot and compliment the people above them in the organization. 

 

It should be pointed out that many great leaders indeed have that exact look….but many do not. It also must be pointed out that having that look most certainly does not make a person a leader. Many people with that “look” are nothing more than a mirage of leadership. 

 

That’s why I don’t invest much time looking at a person to determine if they are in fact a leader. I look at the people they claim to lead. 

 

A managed person who will do what they are told and if they are not told to do something then it is likely that is what they will do, nothing. A person who is led will do so much more. They not only do more they think more, they take more risks, they are more engaged, they care more, they ARE more. 

 

A person who is managed will seldom reach their potential. A person who is led well will reach their potential and then push past it to accomplish more than they ever thought possible. 

 

The “look” of Authentic Leadership and especially Authentic Servant Leadership, is not found by looking at the leader. It is found by looking at the people they lead. 


Using appearance as a criteria for leadership is beyond silly. Yet it happens across organizations big and small every day. Don’t make that mistake, leaders produce favorable results, in themselves and in their people. Throughout history this simple fact has always remained true: if there is no result then there is no leader. 

Why Leaders Need Vision

Leaders don’t need 20 20 eyesight to have good vision. What they need is an imagination, an idea of what is possible, and a picture of what the future may hold. 

 

That vision should guide them and motivate them to grow and improve. It should provide hope in the tough times, particularly if their vision includes an understanding of their purpose and the purpose of their organization. 

 

A good vision can show the leader where they and their organization are headed. It will pull the leader past the inevitable roadblocks that pop up within every plan. A true vision provides focus. The vision helps answer every question that could come up. If something gets you closer to your vision you do it, if it doesn’t get you closer to your vision you don’t. Good vision provides clarity for a leader even during the foggiest of times.

 

Good vision helps a leader answer the “why” question that can otherwise place doubts in the leader’s mind. A leader with good vision always has an answer to the “why are we doing this?” and “what’s the point?” questions that can haunt leaders with lesser vision. Particularly when those questions come from naysayers. 

 

Good vision does all that and more for a leader and you know what? It can do all those things for a leader’s people and their organization too. 

 

If.

 

If the leader is effective at casting that vision upon those people and the organization. Since a leader can’t really do much alone they must be able to communicate and “sell” that vision to their people. They must reinforce that vision through their words and actions at every opportunity. 

 

People find it easier to follow a leader when they know where that leader is taking them. They find it much much easier to follow a leader when they know they are included in the vision. 

 

When a leader shares their vision with their people those people become engaged and they stay engaged. When those people buy into the vision they commit to making it happen. When all, or at least the majority of the people within an organization share the same vision that organization is nearly unstoppable. 

 

If you’re leading any type of organization today then you must, must, must develop and share your vision for your people and organization. You must share it soon and you must share it often. You truly cannot over share your vision. 


The alternative to not sharing your vision is… well, we don’t want to go there because that my friends would be a very sad story. 

The Case for Micro-Leading

It seems as if I’m always learning something more about leadership. If there is one thing about leadership that I learn almost everyday it’s that I have a lot to learn when it comes to leading.

 

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ll know my thoughts on micro-managing. It does great harm, to the person being micro-managed, to their organization, and even at times to the micro-manager

 

People resist being managed and they super resist being micro-managed. Micro-managing causes the micro-managed person to feel that they are not trusted even though that’s often not the case. Many times a micro-manager trusts their people and believes they are actually helping them. It’s not meant to be hurtful, it is in fact meant to be helpful. 

 

Regardless of their motives micro-managers are not helpful in the long-run. 

 

I am a firm believer in delegating tasks and empowering your people to take the reins. Let them work through the details and learn more than they ever would by being micro-managed. In the long-run it could be better for the organization. 

 

But….

 

You can delegate a task but as a leader you cannot delegate the responsibility for it being successfully accomplished

 

Which brings us to what I’ve learned lately. Given the choice between a well meaning leader who micro-manages their people, or a well meaning leader who empowers their people with little or no supervision, I’m going with the micro-manager every time

 

Despite my recent discovery I still refuse to acknowledge that micro-managing may have a place in the development of people. So I’m going to coin a new term and call it micro-leading. Here is the difference between micro-managing and micro-leading. 

 

If you’re closely managing someone only for your benefit or for the benefit of the organization then it’s micro-managing. If you’re closely supervising someone for their own development and learning then it’s micro-leading

 

Why you do something matters. Motives matter. 

 

Now, for those of you who think that the leader who sets their people free to find their own way has terrific motives I would say that you are likely correct. Except that successful leadership requires more, much more, than pure motives. 

 

Authentic Leaders cannot risk the good of the many for the development of one or even several people. Their first responsibility is to the entire organization. That requires them to find the balance between too much supervision and too little. Because of that awesome responsibility to the many I would have to suggest erring on the side of too much. 

 

It’s great when a leader can trust the judgment of their people but leaders must also understand that good judgment often comes from experience. If your people lack that experience then it’s not micro-managing to question their judgment, it’s micro-leading

 

Authentic Leaders “loan” their experience to their people until they have enough experience of their own. It’s only then that an experienced leader will allow them more freedom to use their own informed judgment to make great decisions

 

The good of the many must be foremost in the mind of a leader. It may cause the development of future leaders to be slower than they would like but if you’re in it for the long haul it’s the only way to go

The Challenge of Frustration

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss leadership with a group of mid-level managers. At the end of my presentation I was approached by a significant number of the attendees who all had the same question.

 

The questions, while asked differently all had the same theme: what do I do when my “leader” isn’t a real leader at all?

 

The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at once. I’m assuming (I know that’s dangerous) that the people asking the question are truly leaders. That means they care about the people they lead, they understand that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead and that they get as much pleasure from their people’s success as they do their own. 

 

If that is the case then the answer to the question is this: Lead Up.

 

Lead your leader the same way you lead your followers. Realize that your leader is a person too, realize that they, like every other human being on the planet, have their faults and limitations. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders lead in every direction, down, across and up. That means that instead of criticizing the person above you, which accomplishes nothing, you should be trying to help them overcome their faults and limitations. You can coach them the same way you coach others, you can demonstrate that you care about them the same way you demonstrate that you care about others. You can invest yourself in their success as if their success was your own…because for an Authentic Leader it is.

 

But…and this is what makes it complicated, before you can do any of that you must earn the right to lead up. 

 

Earning the right to lead up requires that you lead yourself exceptionally well. You must have the trust of the person above you to lead up. You earn that trust by being completely transparent with your leader. You don’t say one thing to them and then something else to your followers. You do what you say you will do 100% of the time. You display the same integrity upwards as you do across and down. (just an aside here, you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity any time)

 

You must lead yourself in such a way that the person above you does not feel as if you require much help from them. You control your own attitude and keep it positive as much as humanly possible. You choose your words well and seldom just spout off the first thing that comes to mind. 

 

And then there’s this…you let them devour your ego food!

 

You allow them to sometimes, often, or even frequently take your success as their own. (I told you this was complicated) You take on assignments that your leader may receive credit for doing, you do more than you are required to do knowing full well that “others” may never know it was you who accomplished so much. 

 

I know from personal experience how truly challenging and frustrating that can be but here’s a question for you: are you leading to lead or are you leading for some type of personal glory?

 

If you’re leading to lead that means you lead because you want to make a difference; your motives are not selfish they are selfless. That’s a huge difference that allows you to feed your own ego even after giving much of your ego food to someone else. 

 

YOU know what you did and if you’re truly leading to lead, if you’re truly leading for the benefit of others and not yourself, then that is enough. More than enough actually. 


Leadership comes from many levels within an organization, it also goes in many directions. If you’re experiencing the frustration that comes with following a leader who doesn’t lead then do what real leaders do, stop complaining and start leading…today.


The One True Prerequisite of Leading

You must have a follower!

 

No matter what your title happens to be, no matter how lofty your position may be within your organization if no one is following you then you are not leading. Period!

 

It’s probably the number one leadership mistake I see and I see it often, very very often. People believe that it’s their title or position that makes them a leader. This misnomer is especially common with people new to a position of leadership. 

 

But here is the absolute fact: titles and positions on an organizational chart do not make you a leader. The people following you make you a leader. 

 

You can be promoted to a position with a fancy title that makes it sound like you are a leader but you must earn the right to truly lead. No one, absolutely no one can promote you to the position of Leader, that can only come from the people you would lead and you must constantly demonstrate that you’re worthy of it.

 

The fastest way to demonstrate that is by showing your people that you care about them. Bringing donuts to the meeting is nice but a drone could do that. 

 

Showing you care requires that you connect with your people in a meaningful way. If you’re in a leadership position then I have some questions for you… How much do you REALLY know about the people you claim to lead? Do you know their goals, their needs, their hopes and desires for their future?

 

Do you know what their life struggles are outside of work? Did you ever consider those struggles may affect their work performance? Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe you could help them, coach them or perhaps just offer them someone to talk to?

 

Leadership is about people and to earn the right to lead you’re going to have to be willing to SHOW you care. You must be willing to invest a piece of yourself in someone else’s life. You see, when you make a difference in your business you’re a manager and that’s great but when you make a difference in the life of someone else you’re a leader and that’s better, much much better.


If you’re in a leadership position it’s a good idea to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is really following. If they are not then it’s possible, actually likely that the people who could be following you have decided that you simply don’t care enough to truly lead.