5 Ways A Leader Becomes A Manager

Real World Leading Versus Managing Revealed

1. Short-Term versus Long-Term Focus

When I am managing, I am focused on week-to-week fluctuations in the numbers versus the long-term accomplishment of our bigger goals. When I am managing, I allow my mood to be dictated by the ink spots and spreadsheets of these short-term results.

When I am leading, I am not allowing these short term fluctuations to change my focus. I am more consistent with people and therefore my team’s results lean toward being much more consistent. As a leader, I am more focused on my people and the bigger picture instead of getting caught in the weeds of immediate circumstances.  When managing I over-engineer the process to be right, and when leading I reduce my ego to allow greater results.

2. Monitoring Mistakes

When I am more concerned about the mistakes than I am the progress my people are making, I am managing and not leading. I become a manager when mistake prevention becomes my top priority. By focusing on preventing mistakes, I squash my team’s desire to innovate because they know I am ready to pounce on any mistake.

In a world demanding total rightness and no mistakes – which is impossible; we are left with our authenticity – the admission of mistakes and absence of perfection.

I am leading instead of simply managing when I encourage people to take a calculated risk and try a new way of doing things. I am leading when I teach and learn better problem solving after a mistake occurs so we can prevent it from happening again, versus merely managing to prevent an honest mistake from happening. Leading during honest mistakes requires caring and understanding.  Leading during repeated mistakes requires more training.

3. Projects and Admin Before People

When an email, Powerpoint or report prevents me from speaking to team members, I am managing and not leading. As a leader, my calendar is full of people planning. As a manager my calendar is full of  reports and project expectations.  Tasks and people-both are important, and too easily, as managers we lean into weeds.  It looks more urgent as that is what has made most of us successful in the past.

“What got you here, won’t get you there” ~ Marshall Goldsmith

I recall the story of a new manager (me) coming to his new office, walking by all his people, going into his office, closing his door and starting his day.  His new boss seeing this asks him what he is doing. He says, “starting my day and doing my work.” His boss looks at all the people in the office and tells his new manager, “you just walked by all your work.”

The worst-case scenario occurred when administrative tasks became a priority over people. There were times when I would not answer my phone from a teammate or employee, because I wanted to finish a report or complete reading my emails. People should always come first for a leader.

Leaders know that completing a project or being up to date on the administrative tasks of the job does not get them any closer to leading people well.  “Don’t be Efficient with People” ~ Stephen Covey

4. Reports For Reports Sake

Managers create reports so we feel and look better to others as more informed. Leaders eliminate reports so that their people become more productive. As a leader my focus must be on how I can help people be more productive, not on how I can keep up with what they are doing.

Over time, I discovered that people were doing reports because I had been asked to do those same reports when I was in their role. The reports had nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with me wanting to know what was happening. In actuality, those reports limited my team’s productivity because of all the time my people spent preparing reports for me instead of working towards achieving our goals.

At one point, I eliminated every report from our team’s to do list. I got rid of weekly reports that recapped their activities. I got rid of semester territory reviews that often turned into lengthy Power Point presentations. If a report did not make them more productive, I eliminated it. As long as we communicated with one another, I was aware of what was happening without having to request redundant time-wasting reports.

5. Ignoring Leader Development

I used to believe training and development was to help people improve certain skills to be more productive at work.  That turned out to be management thinking.  As a leader, I learned my goal is truly to help develop people to be better human beings.  To have us all be more valued at home and work.

If you want to be a Better Salesperson – Be a better Person.

As a manager the only training I was doing with my people focused on skill building for their current position. I was managing my current team and focusing on their current performance.

As a leader, I needed to be consistently developing the next generation of leaders. Leaders look out for the future of others and the organization. Leaders see the need to develop potential new thinking and values-based perspectives. By developing team members for their potential future roles, we help further our teams and our organization.

A leader of an organization that ignores human development is managing for today not leading for the future. Short term focus is a trait that a manager maintains but a leader outgrows.

Here are a few observations about leaders and managers.

• Leaders lead people. Managers manage resources.

• Leaders lead change. Managers manage not to lose.

• Leaders grow leaders. Managers maintain processes.

• Leaders often manage well. Managers rarely lead well.

Most leadership positions require management skills. Management skills are important skills for leaders to possess and exercise. However, management skills that are applied with less regard to how they affect people can be received as manipulation not leadership.

The times I lost focus on my people, I slid into management. People are what make the leader. To avoid sliding back into a management role, a leader must never place resources, projects or administrative tasks before people.

Start your next 1:1 with people development dialogue vs always starting with business updates.


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