On multiple occasions during my 20 year career with a Fortune 50 behemoth, I lobbied to change the job titles of the leaders in our sales force. We were all called Managers.
I thought our titles should be Leader not Manager. But, no matter my title, I always believed I was leading. Now in the rearview mirror, I see times I had slid into management mode instead of fighting to remain a leader.
5 Ways A Leader Becomes A Manager
1. Short Term Focus
I was managing when I focused on week to week fluctuations in the numbers versus the long term accomplishment of our bigger goals. When I managed, I would allow my mood and my style of leadership be dictated by the whims of these short-term results.
When I was leading, I did not allow those fluctuations to change my focus. I was more consistent and so were my team’s results. As a leader, I must keep the bigger picture in mind and not get caught in the weeds of the immediate.
2. Monitoring Mistakes
When I was more concerned about the mistakes than I was the progress my people were making, I was managing not leading. I became a manager when mistake prevention became my top priority. I quashed my team’s desire to innovate because they knew I was ready to pounce on any mistake.
Mistakes that are repeated mistakes or mistakes that were warned against are stupid mistakes. As I heard one Army officer say recently “We don’t do stupid around here.” All leaders hate stupid mistakes.
However, I am leading when I encourage my people to take a calculated risk and try a new way of doing things. I am leading when I teach better problem solving after a mistake occurs versus managing and always trying to prevent an honest mistake from happening.
3. Projects and Admin Before People
When a Power Point, a report or an email prevented me from speaking to team members, I was managing not leading. As a leader, I have projects and other responsibilities that are important. However, when those take precedence over my people, I have become a manager.
The worst case scenario occurred when my administrative tasks became a priority over my people. There were times when I would not answer my phone because I wanted to finish a report or complete reading my emails.
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. Those things may make a manager look good in the eyes of the people in the big corner offices. But, projects and admin will not make the people they are supposed to be leading, follow.
4. Reports For Reports Sake
Managers create reports so they feel better informed. Leaders eliminate reports to make their people more productive. As a leader my focus must be on how I can make my people more productive not on how I can keep up with what they are doing.
My people were doing reports because I had been asked to do those reports when I was at that level. They had nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with me wanting to know what was happening. In actuality, those reports limited their productivity because of all the time they spent preparing reports for me instead of working towards their goals.
At one point, I eliminated every report from my 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 Power Point presentations. If a report did not make them more productive, I eliminated it.
5. Ignoring Leader Development
I always believed in training. But at a certain point, the only training I was doing with my people focused on skill development at their current position. I was managing my current team and focused on their current performance.
As a leader, I needed to be consistently developing the next generation of leaders. Leaders look out for the future for the individual and the organization. Leaders see the potential to lead in others and develop those people.
A leader or an organization that ignores leader development is managing for today not leading for the future. Short sightedness is a trait managers maintain and leaders outgrow.
I decided that even though my company was no longer engaged in formal leadership development, it was my responsibility to lead my people to become the future leaders they had the potential to be.
The Bottom Line:
Here are a few observations about leaders and managers.
- Leaders lead people. Managers manage resources.
- Leaders lead change. Managers manage the status quo.
- 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. But, management skills that are applied without regard for people is manipulation not leadership.
Any time I lost focus on my people, I slid into management. People are what make the leader. To avoid sliding into management, a leader must never place resources, projects or administrative tasks before people.
What are some other instances when a leader proves to be just a manager?