I’ve spent more time on Google this week checking out what people have to say about management versus leadership. I may be flogging a dead horse but I keep coming up with people who say that one of the most important aspects of leadership is coming up with a vision or as we shall now call it, Visioning.
I certainly used to subscribe to that view and in fact I used to say that leadership was all about setting the vision, communicating that vision and motivating people around the vision. But that vision thing has got me wondering whether Visioning (you love that word don’t you?) is really part of leadership or is it something else.
If you accept my earlier premise that management is about logic, and leadership is about emotion then where does Visioning sit? If you look at it carefully, Visioning includes a logical component when it comes to examining markets and value propositions and figuring out strategic differentiation. That part of visioning is management. The inspiration part where we hold hands and imagine a better future for the staple industry (for example) is emotional.
I’m going to propose that there are really three dimensions to getting things done in an organizational context. Those things are Management, Leadership and Visioning.
- Management is the logical side and is all about process.
- Leadership is behavioural in nature and is about making an emotional connection.
- Visioning is about developing a description of a desired future state.
This construct solves the dilemma about nasty bosses who have great visions. This way we can stop arguing about whether Steve Jobs was a lousy or great leader. We can conclude that he was a great Visioner but a lousy leader.
If I’ve got it right about the definition of management versus leadership and management is all about logic, and leadership is about emotion then it begs the question, which is more important?
Another way of asking the same question is to ask whether you can be an effective manager without being a good leader or vice versa, can you be an effective leader without being a manager?
I think we can all agree that being both is best but if you had to choose one, which would it be?
When I started contemplating the writing of this blog, I thought I would come down on the side of a balanced approach but alas, I have not ended up there. I’m afraid to say that I’m coming down on the side of management. I am willing to be disagreed with but I thought back to “Bosses I have Known” and decided that it really didn’t matter if they were good leaders.
One boss I knew was a tyrant but a good manager. He got great results. Another one I knew was a great leader but bad manager and everyone was motivated but results were poor. So I came up with this chart. Someday it will be as famous as the Boston Consulting Group’s Cow/Star thingie so don’t forget, you saw it here first: Management versus Leadership.
In the end, for a company, it’s all about the results and a bad leader who is a good manager can deliver results but a good leader who is a bad manager is unlikely to deliver.
I’ve struggled for a long time with coming up with a good definition of management versus leadership. It seems that people use the two words interchangeably. Others seem to have strong opinions about what each is. I’ve heard a number of CEOs say that they need better managers and not better leaders.
In grappling with a way to distinguish between the two I’ve also been trying to find a way to describe what I do. I think I started out trying to help people improve their leadership capabilities but I’m now convinced that what I do is more oriented around improving management skills. the key is deciding how you define these two things.
So here it goes (until I come up with another definition.)
Management is a bunch of processes that are deployed to run an organization. These processes are about analyzing, planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling. This is how you clarify jobs, measure performance, problem solve, and reward people. This is the logical side of business.
Leadership on the other hand is about motivating and inspiring people. It is about making an emotional connection with an individual and thus is the emotional side of organizations.
There are a few disciplines that cross the two boundaries, setting a vision and communicating being two that come to mind immediately. These disciplines have both a logical, procedural component and an emotional one.
So I”m coming full circle in my thinking, having started with focussing on leadership and now thinking maybe that’s the wrong focus. After all, it’s hard to teach leadership behaviours to people but relatively easy to teach management processes. And from what I see, there is as much wrong with management as there is with leadership.
I figured I should follow up last week’s posts about Office Politics with something about how to play the game. But that’s where I got stumped. I never really figured out how to play office politics so was having trouble figuring out how to advise my loyal readers on what to do.
As you might imagine I turned to Google to give me some good advice. Unfortunately I got a lot of smarmy, socially correct, well-meaning posts on the topic. OMG, people do take themselves so seriously. Well that wouldn’t work so I performed a multi-variant analysis using chi-squared techniques on behavior patterns of successful office politicians.
That’s when it hit me. I thought back to all the people I knew who were good at office politics. The one thing they had in common was that they were all giant suck-ups. Now in case you are unclear of what a suck-up is, please check out some marvelous definitions in the Urban Dictionary. (One great thing about the term is that is can be used as both a verb and a noun.)
I thought back to famous suck-ups I have known who made chummy with the boss, were always in her office, sought her out for special advice and overall, talked a very good game without ever producing anything. These were the people who won in office politics.
The people who lost were the quiet ones who just did their job, didn’t draw attention to themselves, didn’t seek special favor and who were just all-round competent. In the end if you’re one of these people, you know who you are because the suck-ups really piss you off.
So if you want to get better at office politics, time to change your behavior and start sucking up.
Office politics and turf wars seem to hit a nerve with people. The thing is that it’s all so unnecessary and can be easily eliminated if companies realized what a toll it’s having on the organization. Here’s what I think is causing office politics in the first place.
- Executives are creating their strategic plans but not properly communicating those plans down the line.
- Thus workers are confused as to what exactly they should be doing.
- So they make up an answer and proceed to do whatever they think is best.
- Which leads them to compete with people who also think that they have responsibility for the same thing.
- So they compete for resources, budget, attention, whatever is necessary.
- And they frequently end up duplicating efforts.
- Wasting resources,
- And pissing off customers who retreat confused.
The poor schlub who sits at the bottom of the chain spends his life (notice that I said ‘his’ because schlubs are never female) battling turf wars. The thing about turf wars is that they are impossible to win. You’ll always be fighting a rear-guard action against the enemy trying to encroach upon your turf.
Of course I turned to Sun Tzu to hear what he had to say about turf wars: “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.”
Good old Sun Tzu. Always something pithy and apropos to quote so the writer can seem erudite, well read, and intelligent.
A colleague of mine once remarked that office politics in universities are so intense because the stakes are so small. Same too for companies except in some cases the stakes grow and the battles simmer.
Another friend recently reported that she’s in the midst of a big political battle and this got me wondering about the source of politics, the role that the organization plays in fostering politics and what politics are to begin with.
Having not spent much time in big organizations I had to do some serious thinking about what politics really are and I’ve decided that it’s an attempt to gain power so that one can do one’s job. Wikipedia says that it’s the use of power for the pursuit of self-interest without regard to the effect on the organizations ability to achieve its own goals.
But I don’t buy this. I think politics exist when someone is trying to achieve his or her own organizational objectives, not personal ones. I think people are just trying to do their job to the best of their ability and meet the goals set out for their role in the organization. The difference is important because if the source of politics is personal then the organization doesn’t have a role in it. But if the source is organizational then you can blame the company for its existence.
When people have to fight for resources including funding, personnel, authority and even attention to get their jobs done then politics will break out. The fight isn’t one to gain personally but to gain by achieving their own organizational objectives. That’s why the organization is at fault. It has created an environment where people have to battle internally to do their jobs.
Are you sitting doing your job quietly while everyone else is getting all the glory? Do you wish that more people paid attention to what you know? Are you upset when obvious phonies get all the attention?
It sounds like the beginning of a Charles Atlas ad that promises to turn the 98 pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face to a super buffed guy who gets all the babes. But at work it is truer today than ever before.
If you can’t promote yourself, why would anyone else do it for you?
Oh yes, you can say that self-promotion is a waste of time. Eventually someone will notice what you do but that just isn’t the case. Unfortunately, people who don’t promote themselves rarely get anywhere. This is why effective self-promotion is one of those skills that a leader can’t do without.
Now I’m not one to ask how to do this because I actually suck at it. I would rather learn something from someone else than talk about what I’m up to. I just can’t figure out the right balance. That’s why I’m not very good as an entrepreneur, not very good at sales unless I’m dealing with someone who makes decisions based on evidence versus personality.
Now several weeks ago, I admitted I wasn’t very good at networking and it’s all part of the same gene. I haven’t figured out how to network well and I’ve not figured out this self-promotion thing yet. I think I’ll have to develop a process.
If you have any ideas on this, I would love to hear them.
PS: As I finished this and went looking for an image to steal and post to accompany the article, I discovered that there is a Dummies book on Self-Promotion. MUST BUY.
Of all the questions you need to ask when you’re looking for a new job, perhaps the most critical is “How will I know when I’ve succeeded?” This is the same as saying, when is enough enough?
Let’s say you’re sitting down to write a report for the first time to recommend a certain course of action. You’ll have to ask yourself a few questions.
- How many alternatives should I examine?
- How long should the report be?
- What level of detail should I include?
- How will I know when I’m done?
Typically what happens in situations like this is that the work expands to fill the time available. The report is done when it’s due. This means that you work away at it slavishly just until you can’t work any more because you’ve reached the completion deadline (or slightly over it) at which point of time, it’s finished.
If you’re looking for a new job, you’ll need to figure out how the company looks at things like this.
- What feedback do you get when you finish a major project?
- How does this influence the appraisal process?
- How does it influence compensation?
- How will it influence opportunities for advancement?
Questions, questions, questions. If your prospective employer can’t answer these things then watch out.
Back again for another day of questions to ask in a job interview. If you want to get ahead, you have to know how you’re doing on a regular basis.
In the industrial economy or if you’re in sales, you always know how you’re doing. No need to be told. There are all sorts of dials and levers that will tell you. In the knowledge economy though you can’t know unless someone tells you. And once a year when you’re getting your appraisal isn’t enough.
So when you’re looking for a job you need to figure out where you’re going to get feedback from.
- Will there be metrics?
- How often will you get metrics reports?
- If there aren’t metrics how will you know how I’m doing?
- How often will you meet with your new boss to discuss how you’re doing?
This is called performance management and is something done weekly in great places, done monthly in good places, done quarterly in OK places and done annually in poor workplaces.
If you want to tear your hair out, try working without feedback. Caveat Emptor.
Yesterday I set out four questions you need to get answered in an interview to tell if you’re going to be working for a good boss. In case you’ve forgotten or too lazy to check, the four questions are:
- How will I know exactly what is expected of me?
- How will I know how I’m doing?
- How will I know how to get better?
- How will I know how I’ve done?
Today we’ll look at the first one. You probably got a job description from the company before you applied. That must have gotten you so excited by requirements like: “Must have good knowledge of Excel” and others like “Responsible for inter-departmental process facilitation.”
Whatever. It’s a job and you need one but will you be working for an idiot? Does the job description tell you what you need to know? How will you know what’s expected of you?
Most job descriptions only talk about the process and not the results that are expected. What should be key for you is figuring out what results they want. This might not be in a job description but it should exist somewhere.
Wherever it exists, does it tell you what results are expected? And exactly, with measurements like; “Responsible for 13% net profit on sales to new markets?”
Does it tell you what your limits of authority are like “Must get all sales above $100,000 approved by manager in advance.”
This will tell you something about how good your new boss is at delegating. If she has thought through metrics it will mean that you’re responsible for results and have the authority to do the job. Otherwise, micromanagement here we come.