Managing vs Leading – Part Four

When people in a position of leadership merely attempt to manage their people they tend to see their people as an asset, much like a computer or printer. When someone they are attempting to manage is underperforming they think in terms of spending time on that person to bring them up to speed. That doesn’t make them a bad person or even a poor manager. It does however make them a very ineffective leader.

When a person in a position of leadership actually leads they see the people they lead as human beings. When someone they lead is underperforming they choose to invest time with them to help them reach their full potential. They never see their people as an expense, they see them as an investment. They are always an investment.

Seeing people as an expense creates nothing but problems. Seeing people as an investment creates all kinds of opportunities. Changing your mindset from “people expense” to “people investment” changes everything!

It changes you from someone occupying a position of leadership to someone with a legitimate opportunity to become an Authentic Leader.

You will know you’ve made the most of that opportunity when you are consistently showing the people you lead that you care. You will have made the most of that opportunity when you work each day to ensure that your people know that they matter more than their work. Authentic Leaders know that everyone has a need to feel worthwhile and they invest a part of themselves to make certain that their people never doubt their personal value.

Authentic Leaders are encouragers. They know becoming discouraged isn’t a weakness, it’s a part of living. They intentionally watch for times their people could use an extra boost. They provide meaningful encouragement to help them overcome rough patches.

Authentic Leaders have learned that their people value a relationship with them. It isn’t necessarily the “let’s grab a beer after work” kind of relationship. It’s more of a professional, mentor/mentee relationship. It is a relationship with enough trust that both sides can openly talk about personal and professional concerns. Authentic Leaders don’t need an “open door” policy because it’s their heart that’s always open.

Authentic Leaders are well aware that the people they lead are vital to their own success so they are a priority. They don’t invest their spare time in their people, they don’t encourage them when it’s convenient. They don’t show they care because they heard it’s important. They don’t help their people feel worthwhile so they can get more work out of them.

They do all those things because they truly care. They do those things because they care for their people as human beings and value their success as much as their own. They do all those things because they do more than manage their people, they lead them. The difference between the two is life changing.

Managing vs Leading – Part Three

As you gain an understanding of the characteristics of a leader you move from the mindset of managing people to truly leading them. If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience Authentic Leadership from someone else in your organization then your understanding of those characteristics will happen quickly. If you’ve had the misfortune of working only for a boss then your transition from managing to actually leading could be much slower…if it happens at all.

Considering that I make my living “teaching” people how to lead this next sentence might come as a surprise to some. The fact is that leadership cannot be taught. It can only be modeled.

What I can do is teach the characteristics of an Authentic Leader. That tends to speed up the process of transitioning from attempting to manage people to truly leading them.

The characteristics of leadership that I most often speak and write about include Integrity. I list that as the most important characteristic of leadership because if people don’t trust you they cannot follow you.

This is one of the reasons it is so much more challenging to lead people than it is to manage them. Someone who is managing people has less to be concerned about when it comes to trust. They are forcing the compliance of their people and trust is not a requirement for compliance.

A leader however puts forth the effort to earn the commitment of their people. They know that without the trust of their people that commitment is impossible. So they do what they say they will do. Their actions match their words. Trust comes directly from integrity so Authentic Leaders speak, act and even think with integrity.

People in leadership positions who manage people want to be trusted but they hope for the trust of their people. A leader intentionally works for it. A manager expects the commitment of their people. An Authentic Leader understands that commitment is a two-way street. They commit to their people before they expect their people to commit to them.

Another vital characteristic of leadership is judgment. Leaders are required to make decisions both large and small. They don’t get them all right but they get most of the big ones right. They don’t assume and when they need more information to make a sound decision they seek it out. They know that they don’t need to know it all and they don’t think admitting that they don’t is a weakness.

Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Authentic Leaders display moral courage. Their judgment is informed by that moral courage and they do not shy away from difficult decisions or the conflicts that can result. They don’t need a poll to know what is right. They know what is wrong is wrong, even if everyone else is doing it.

Managers may say they care and indeed they may but Authentic Leaders show they care and they do it with great intentionality. Saying you care leaves room for doubt, showing you care removes that doubt and deepens the commitment level of your people.

Caring for people is an essential leadership characteristic. It has been said by too many people to know who said it first that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Authentic Leaders know that it is not a weakness to demonstrate caring and compassion for people. They genuinely want the best for people in general and especially for the people they lead.

Their caring motives are always on display and it’s that characteristic that initially draws people to them. Where a manager might leave you wondering about their motives an Authentic Leader never will.

Managing vs Leading – Part Two

When you’re promoted to a leadership position it would be great if leadership skills came with the promotion. Unfortunately they don’t. More unfortunately, many new leaders act as if their new position, their new title, and their new office come with an entirely new set of skills that include a new way of thinking.

They couldn’t be more wrong. While you can be promoted to a position of leadership you cannot be promoted to leader. You must earn earn the right to lead. Earning that right begins when you realize that leadership has nothing to do with your title or position. Those things might make you a boss but they do not make you a leader. The good news is that once you realize that leadership isn’t about a position or title you also realize that you don’t need a title or leadership position to lead.

That’s because leadership is all about influence. Being a boss or a manager is more about authority. Influence gives you the opportunity to earn the commitment of other people. Authority only gives you the opportunity to force people to comply with your directives.

The fastest most effective way to influence other people is to demonstrate to them that you care for them. Notice that I didn’t say care about them. I said care for them. The difference is significant.

Anyone in a leadership position cares about the people they are supposed to lead. They care about their productivity. They care about their attitude. They care about their attendance. They care about the people they are supposed to lead getting the work done. They care about lots of things when it comes to the people they are supposed to lead.

But an Authentic Leaders cares for the people they lead. They care for them as individual human beings first and members of the organization second. The people they lead are more important than the task they ask them to complete. The people they lead are more important than their attendance record at work. Authentic Leaders don’t worry about the attitude of the people they lead. They create an environment of positivity that fosters a consistent positive attitude. They do all of that because they care for the people they are responsible to lead.

Authentic Leaders make a difference, a positive difference, in the lives of the people they lead and they don’t need a leadership position or a fancy title to make that happen.

Are showing your people that you care about them or are you demonstrating on a daily basis that you care for them? Do you invest the time required to know the people you lead? Do you know their goals, both personal and professional? Do you know the challenges they face in their lives. Do you know how you can help them achieve those goals and deal with those challenges?

If you can answer those questions with a yes then it’s likely that you are also demonstrating that you truly care for the people you lead. It is also almost a certainty that you’re an Authentic Leader!

Managing vs Leading – Part One

Most people who find themselves in a leadership position for the first time got there because they were good at doing whatever they were doing. They were then promoted to lead their former co-workers.

That’s great except for the fact that they are very unlikely to actually lead. They make what is the most common leadership mistake of all. They assume that their new position makes them a leader. It absolutely does not!

Your position or title gives you an opportunity to earn the chance to lead. Nothing more and nothing less.

Most people appointed to a leadership position tend to “lead” the way they were “led” by the people who they worked for. If you had a bad boss then you’ve got a head start on being a bad boss yourself. If you were managed instead of led then you’ll likely attempt to manage your people as well.

The problems associated with trying to manage another human being are too numerous to list here. But here are some of the big ones.

Poor attitude. People resist being managed, they need leadership. So managed people tend to have poor attitudes. They push back against being managed in a ton of ways, some subtle and some not so subtle. They procrastinate when given a directive. They have attendance issues. They seem to require constant attention. They question almost every decision. They resist, sometimes massively, any kind of change.

Research shows they most people are terminated due to some type of attitude issue. What most people in leadership positions fail to understand is that it was their lack of ability to truly lead that caused the poor attitude of the person they just fired.

If you’re tempted to say that you are not responsible for the attitude of your people then please immediately stop thinking of yourself as a leader. Developing an environment and culture that helps nurture a positive attitude is a prime responsibility of Authentic Leadership.

Lack of initiative. Every employer wants “self-starters” or people who can work effectively while unsupervised. But managed people seldom take the initiative….for anything but lunch and break periods. Even people with a “go-getter” mentality don’t go very far when managed instead of led. They do what it says to do in their job description (maybe) and not much more. If someone who works for you refuses to do something that isn’t explicitly spelled out in their job description that’s a sure sign they feel as if they are being managed. People who feel managed do the bare minimum required to keep their job. When you think about it that’s only fair since their manager is doing the bare minimum to help them do it.

High turnover and low morale. When you attempt to use your position or title to force the compliance of your people you cause low morale. You also cause higher turnover. Authentic Leaders earn the commitment of their people by leading them. Leaders in name only try to manage their people and the only real “tools” they have are fear and coercion. That might get them the appearance of compliance but it will not earn them commitment. High turnover and low morale will cause even high performers to disengage. No business can afford even one disengaged employee but some research shows as many as 70% of the employees at an average business are disengaged.

Average businesses and organizations attempt to manage their people rather than lead them.

Are you managing your people to an average performance or are you leading them to excellence?

Leading, Actually Leading

If everyone in a leadership position who wasn’t actually leading were fired there would be a ton of open leadership positions. The sad reality of leadership is that most people in leadership positions merely pose as leaders. They don’t do the hard work that truly leading requires.

Think of it like this. If you’re going someplace in your car and someone asks to tag along because they have nothing better to do then you’re taking them for a ride. That’s like occupying a leadership position without really leading. People might be in the car with you but they have no commitment to any particular destination.

When you’re giving someone a ride to a place they need to go and they might not get there without you, that’s like actually leading. They have a destination in mind and you’re their guide to get them there.

A person in a leadership position who actually leads has the ability to change the world for the good.

Maybe only one person’s world but that is more than most leaders in name only will do.

It’s not a big surprise that most people in leadership positions don’t actually lead. Over 50% of people in leadership positions have never received a minute of formal leadership training. More than 80% have never participated in a leadership development program.

If you’re wondering about the difference between leadership training and leadership development I’d explain it this way. Leadership training focuses on the “as is.” It’s about focusing on past leadership experiences to maintain the status quo. Leadership development aims higher. It is about being a better leader than the leaders that came before.

Leaders who actually lead invest themselves in their people. They celebrate the success of their people as much as their own. They know that as a leader who actually leads their success in completely dependent upon the success of their people.

“Leaders” who merely occupy a leadership position think in terms of “spending time” to correct mistakes made by their people. Leaders who lead think in terms of “investing time” to grow their people to a level where mistakes are virtually eliminated.

Leaders who actually lead understand that budgets, buildings and other “things” are managed. They also understand that people must be led and they have learned the difference between managing and leading.

People who are managed will never reach their potential. That’s the biggest problem with having “leadership posers” in a leadership position. If they are responsible for a budding superstar and they try to manage them rather than lead them that bud will never bloom.

That makes it a huge challenge to grow an organization.

When leaders don’t lead then their people don’t grow, or they grow too slowly to have the impact on the organization that they could. Don’t let that happen to your people. If you’re in a position of leadership and your organization doesn’t offer you Leadership Training or Leadership Development then do what an Authentic Leader would do…seek it out on your own. It’s like an investment in yourself.

Lead yourself to success. Lead yourself to truly lead your people.

“They” Do Have a Choice

At the conclusion of a presentation I was giving on Leadership a while back a person raised their hand to ask a question. I had started the presentation the way many of my Leadership presentations begin and that was by saying “your title or position does not make you a leader.” I usually go on to say that only followers can make you a leader.

The presentation then most often talks about how to be the type of person someone would want to follow.

The person with the question didn’t really have a question; he wanted to make a statement. He said that in fact his title DID make him a leader. He said that the people who worked for him “had no choice” but to follow him because he was “the boss.”

The started me off on the longest response I’ve ever given to someone in the audience at one of my presentations.

I told the person that while being the boss may force someone to comply with his “commands” it absolutely didn’t make him a leader. A leader is someone who is able to earn the willing commitment of their people. They have no need to “boss” because their committed people will do what needs to be done in order to assist their leader.

Committed people outperform compliant people every time. They do more, they do it better and they do it faster.

A “boss” may hold a position of leadership but that has nothing to do with leading. A person who holds a position of leadership and doesn’t lead actually is the cause of most of an organization’s personnel issues. A person in a leadership position who doesn’t lead creates turmoil in the organization and demoralizes it’s people.

Assuming your position or title makes you a leader is about the biggest mistake a person occupying a leadership position can make. It makes them look arrogant and sends a message to their people that they are somehow inferior to their “leader.”

To lead another human being requires their permission. It also requires their commitment. People do not commit to titles or positions, they only commit to other people. That commitment must be earned and it must be earned by showing the people you would lead that you care about them as human beings.

Your title can’t care and your position can’t care. Only you can care.

I finished up my response by saying that if someone doesn’t have the willingness and desire to care for other people then they may hold a position of leadership but they do not hold the hearts and the minds of the people they hope to lead.

That could make them many things but it doesn’t make them a leader.

He didn’t have any other questions.

People or Policy?

Businesses must have policies! They need a set of procedures that help their employees know what to do in any given circumstance. Those policies and procedures also help provide a consistent experience to their customers. Until it doesn’t.

I’m all for policies and procedures when it comes to “things” like how to do the books, how to mix some exotic coffee drink (it’s all exotic to me) or how to answer the phone. “Things” are best done with some consistency.

There should also be policies when it comes to people. My preferred “people policy” is to not have a policy. The last thing I want to hear from a customer service representative is the policy of whatever place they are working at. That’s bad business.

What’s worse is when someone in a leadership position attempts to “lead by policy.” Every single person is unique and the only policy that fits everyone is to have no policy. I’ve never met anyone who was smart enough to develop a policy that “fit” every individual they might encounter. Trying to squeeze every person into a “one size fits all” policy is demoralizing to the people who don’t fit.

A leader can certainly benefit from some guidelines. They can use past history to help determine their actions but leadership is about people and every person is different. Policies and procedures tend to lock a leader into a decision. People who lead by policy look at a situation and apply the logical procedure in the same way they did the last time they faced a similar situation. They will apply the same procedure the next time they face the situation.

That would be fine except for one little problem. Leadership is about people. People are far more emotional and far less logical than those “things” that work better with consistent policies and procedures.

That is one of the major challenges of leading.

Authentic Leaders care for the people of their organization more than they care about the policies of their organization. They apply the “rules” of the organization unfairly but they apply them equally unfairly to everyone. They think and act with unquestioned integrity. They know that the best thing they can do for the organization is to take care of it’s people. They show their understanding that not a single policy or procedure is more important than the people who implement them.

They know that what is right is sometimes unfair. The do the right thing anyway. They take each individual person’s circumstances into consideration. If there is no policy or procedure that fits then they make a new one that will.

Before all the HR professionals and lawyers reading this go nuts on me let me say this. I understand the need for employee handbooks and policies. I get that rules matter. I’m not advocating for anarchy in the workplace. I understand the danger of making up policy on the fly. I can only hope you understand the danger of not.

People, both employees of a business and the customers of that business are individuals. Believing that you can precisely fit all of them into some predetermined policy with a “close enough” attitude is a recipe for failure.

When it comes to building, engaging and motivating your people “close enough” isn’t enough. Authentic Leaders put their people before their policies to ensure a perfect fit.

Do you?