In my years as an executive coach, I have found that many organizations are missing two of the most critical distinctions in leadership development: Management vs. Leadership. Although they are at times correlated, for the most part, they are mutually exclusive. Most CLO’s and senior HR executives intellectually will agree with me, yet they really invest no resources or very few resources to powerfully address it. (I know. I know – it is not in your budget. Poor excuse, considering the alternative – lack of performance.)
It seems that any time senior executives elect not to deal with the challenges or difficulties of senior management or leadership performance, “lack of resources” and “no room in the budget” almost always is to blame. A senior exec in a very large company responded once, “We know that we are facing very critical leadership issues, but we have no time to deal with it right now. Our plates are full.” It seems like the corporate world invented the word “oxymoron.”
The bottom line is: this is the most valuable and critical investment any organization can make and should be put on the top of its list. It is the most important line item in the budget. It is called leadership Equity.
It is VERY critical for companies and organizations worldwide to read this briefing with a high level of attention. It will mean the difference between good performance and extraordinary performance, the difference between an average return on equity, and an exceptional return on equity, the difference between high shareholder value and poor shareholder value. And for some companies, even the difference between staying in business or going out of business.
In order to have this be a useful conversation, I am using these distinctions exactly as stated in the following statements:
Management – The ability to consistently maintain order, to seamlessly integrate people, systems, and processes to work effectively and efficiently together, causing predictability and stability.
Leadership – The ability to invent possibilities, open new frontiers, and cause features to become reality, now, through the engagement and participation of others.
To say it another way, leadership is about Being and management is about Doing. The leader’s main concern is creating the future and the manager’s concern is, to get you there. Although for some professionals, it is a natural evolution to take the next step and to make the transition between the two worlds, for most it is not. This very distinct transition is not a linear progression. If anything, it is fundamentally non-linear in nature. Excellent managers will not necessarily become excellent leaders, and exceptional leaders are not necessarily excellent managers (in fact, significant numbers of leaders are not) or have any real interest to become one. It is possible, but not likely. Most often, both distinctions are spoken of in the same context; however, Management truly is from Venus and Leadership truly is from Mars.
To successfully allowing people to make the leap, if that is the intention, will call forth a completely distinct set of skills and, most importantly, a completely different set of commitments and choices. It can be the case that in a given organization, you will find an extraordinary manager that can become a great leader, but it is more rare than common.
Here are some power tips for those who have been trusted with developing your company’s leadership talent:
- Leaders are made on the court, not in the stands – in theory, there is no difference between practice and theory; in practice, there is. There is no way to have leaders emerge in theory. They will emerge only in practice, one challenge at a time.
- Start early, not late – leaders are made, not born. (Yes I know, occasionally they are born with it, but again, that is rare.) Give yourself the time you, and they need to be developed – to be able to go from failure to failure and not lose their enthusiasm, passion, commitment, and choices.
- The opportunity defines the leader, not the circumstances – the circumstances that leaders find themselves in or dealing with are irrelevant. The opportunity they generate out of the circumstances is what builds and constructs their “Leadership DNA.” Breakdowns are the perfect training ground for leadership.
- You can put a price tag on skills, but the “heart” is priceless – it is not the skillset that you want to evaluate; it is the scope of the heart. Leaders need to have miles and miles of heart. It is the commitment that constitutes who they are that really counted, not the presence or absence of skills. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart.
- It is not about your organization’s needs and wants –it is about the organization’s long-term commitment. The journey of creating the opportunity for leadership is a journey without a destination. Leadership is a place to come from, not a place to get to. It is a road that will never end.
- You can’t shape their “Leadership DNA” – it is their job, their choice; not yours and/or your organization’s. The only way you can contribute is by creating the opportunity and then hands off, let them do the work. It is their journey, not yours – and they may never arrive. That is a risk you will have to take. There are no short cuts.
Have you ever heard the expression “punishment by reward”? Rewarding an exceptional manager with a leadership opportunity without the organization’s unconditional commitment to their training and development and sufficient investment in their success can be detrimental and quite costly. It also requires a completely different roadmap for the discovery process: much more ontological than practical.
If this briefing comes across a bit harsh or strong, good! I want to get your attention. No offense is intended; quite, the opposite. In my profession, I have developed a deep appreciation for those who stand for leadership, causing people to take life head-on, and for those that are big enough to allow people to grow bigger than they themselves, ever imagined. It is quite extraordinary.
When the work is done, a great leader is measured, I say, by the number of leaders they inspired to be.