You Are Perfectly Programmed To Fail

One of the most challenging transitions you will face in your career as an economic development professional is successfully making the transition from manager to leader. Failure to do so caps your personal career potential and limits your ability to address many of the significant challenges facing your community.

The problem isn’t you. The problem is that everything you have learned to make you a successful manager is perfectly designed to cause you to fail as a leader; unless, you choose to unlearn certain behaviors.

“if you think like you always thought, you’ll always get what you always got.” Michael O’Brien

Success looks like moving from managing projects and teams to leading people and organizations.

Failure looks like doing instead of coaching and disempowering people. You need to resist the temptation to micro-manage, make all of the important decisions and be the “go-to” person.     Instead, you must publicly back the decisions of the people you are leading and teach them to be leaders as well.

What Should You Do?

  • Master the skills of servant leadership.         The core concept behind servant leadership is the focus on developing people as a way to deliver breakthrough results. As a servant leader you care about the success of the people you lead and you develop their skill mastery as a way to generate sustainable organizational results.
  • Work on the system not simply in the system. Focus on how things get done (or don’t get done) and concentrate on identifying process improvements to deliver even better results. If you simply work in the system, you limit your impact. Just because “this is the way we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable reason to not improve a process. If the process is a high leverage activity then improvement is worth your attention and the investment of resources.
  • Sharpen your consulting skills. You need to be able to recognize and capitalize on teaching moments to help the people you lead grow and develop. It helps to have a personal toolbox of models to help you problem solve and to teach critical thinking.         Practice the practical application of these models and become a proficient facilitator.         If you are not familiar with the analytical and problem solving models taught in Total Quality training, take some time to study them and make them part of your own skill set. Then teach others to see new connections and how to solve their problem with a total quality model.

What Does Success Look Like?

  • Role modeling leadership behavior so the people working with and for you learn from your actions.
  • Communicating broadly and often. This keeps people focused on the principles of what you are trying to accomplish and provides an opportunity to help you succeed.
  • Coach people who support you as though they were team members. When people feel you genuinely want to help them be more successful, they will invest in your personal development as a leader.
  • Create understanding, alignment and commitment to objectives and action plans.         This is your unique responsibility.
  • Focus on teaching “why” and not simply “what”. It is important you help people understand the reasons why you decide to do things and not simply how to execute.

How You Can Help

Leave a comment or share you experience in transitioning from doing to leading. What was the hardest skill for you to master? What are you currently working on to improve your leadership skill set? By sharing your experience you help add value to the discussion.

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32 Comments so far

  1. Ashwin Kini

    July 19, 2011

    A professor of mine gave me an important insight into this subject:

    A manager manages status quo activities while a leader brings about ‘change’. When a manager analyzes activities, and changes the way they are carried out that impacts in a positive way, thats when a manager becomes a leader.

    As we can observe in organizations, managers are busy ‘fire-fighting’ that they get little time to take a step back and analyze why/how they are doing things that they are currently doing. The ones who do it, transition to become leaders.

    We get to hear a leader must be honest, sincere etc. but these are the qualities of a leader (and these qualities change from one person to the other. In fact, infamous people have also gone to become leaders in their own right!!). The most important function that a leader performs is to bring about change. And thats her job.

  2. Chris Ambrogi

    July 19, 2011

    Good leaders handle every situation differently. You cannot lead with a “one size fits all” style. Good leaders know when to use the appropriate amount of support and/or direction based on the situation.

  3. tchimsi atchabao

    July 20, 2011

    I quite adhere to the tips above given. It usually works out when there is sharing in a team.
    Now, what about ‘hard breeds’ who do not want to do like others do or say they won’t help ‘lift other fellows’?

  4. SlimFairview

    July 20, 2011

    You make the transition from manager to leader when the people you manage realise that you know what your are doing. (And that you can do it without irritating the people you manage.) Slim

  5. Murray Clark

    July 20, 2011

    When a member of your team or area of responsibility makes an error, How do you react? Leaders use this as an opportunity to teach your team member and take the ownership of the error as a lack of training that is the reponsibility of the leader to provide. Managers may react in a different way.

  6. Sameer A

    July 21, 2011

    All of you have great points. Managers tend to focus on the work but Leaders also focus on the people. Managers always try to do the things right but Leaders always try do the right things. If management is making sure that all parts of the “car” are working then leadership is making sure there is a path to travel on.

  7. omer

    July 23, 2011

    Becoming a leader means to let the things happen in the direction envisioned by the leader himself and giving the right and relevant signals when needed, including being the right model for the organization / company.

  8. omer

    July 23, 2011

    I would add the phrase from “blue ocean strategy” – “turning points leadership” which is based on two basic elements: Concentration (instead of decentralization) and identifying and use the diproportionate elements of influence within the company (saving resources..)!

  9. Ken Wessel

    July 24, 2011

    Ken Wessel • Managing involves integration of processes of; organizing, planning, directing, auditing and controlling (perhaps others) and has to do with managing things. The transition from managing to leading requires ableness to manage oneself.

    Grounding in “Creating a Leadership Presence” is based on self-empowerment, (leaders understand they cannot empower another person) and can create an empowering climate and provide direction to others based on own achievement of self-empowerment.

    Self-empowerment begins with mastering the power of self-discipline (self-denial) followed by the power of self-accountability (power to avoid blaming others when things go badly or expecting special rewards when things go well.) Third force is mastering the power of self-initiative (self-direction.) Many organizations start with this power and regret it because individuals have not mastered power of self-discipline and self-accountability.

    Managing people is described as supervision (although people who are unable to manage themselves require supervision.)

  10. Chris Waldron

    July 24, 2011

    A leader inspires passion and energy and mentors people to develop their skill sets, but in my experience you get the best out of people by understanding them and never thinking anyone is less than you.

  11. Abby Donnelly

    July 25, 2011

    At our Leadership Institute, managerial candidates begin learning how to be more self aware and how to better understand those they work with and interact with every day to get the job done. As they progress to higher management levels, they learn to manage people, systems, processes and time/energy. The focus for managers is on efficiency and effectiveness. As they learn to lead, they begin focusing on growth — of the individual, team and business unit. Leaders cut their teeth leading high performing teams, then grow into leading strategy and eventually, they lead their legacy, which necessitates succession planning and cultural transition to the next level of leader.

  12. Lonn Dugan

    July 25, 2011

    A manager wields positional authority. A Leader wields personal authority.

    Don’t think this too simple a definition.

    Positional authority gets a job done by assignment. Others may accept your authority because of your position, but that does not mean they are being led. It means they are being convinced, or paid, or coerced.

    Personal authority is cultivated, earned, not acquired from others. People follow differently when they respect you, look up to you, trust you.

  13. Don Midgett

    July 25, 2011

    Anyone transitioning from manager to leader must become vision driven and develop their vision for the future.

  14. Pedro Rangel

    July 26, 2011

    Apply the three E’s:
    ENVISION: Create a picture of the future and communicate that to your people.
    ENGAGE: Tell your people the role they will play in meeting that future, and their rewards.
    ENABLE: Use your experience/expertise to help your people achieve their goals,getting obstacles out of their way,managing high level issues.

  15. Jo Sellers

    July 26, 2011

    Can you really learn to be a leader or are great leaders just born that way?

  16. Dale Gilliam

    July 26, 2011

    I’m a big fan of servant leadership. It really takes a shift in mindset to view the followers as the boss. That is, while the leader still directs the vision, he/she is accountable to those in the trenches trying to carry out the vision.

    I would also recommend the book Positive Leadership (by Kim Cameron) as a research-based theory of how leadership can lead to extra-ordinary (hyphenated for emphasis) success. The areas of emphasis were positive meaning, positive communication, positive environment, and positive relationships.

  17. Ken Wessel

    July 26, 2011

    Ken Wessel • I have several thoughts to add to Abby’s comments:
    -It important for leaders to become self-aware (not an easy process) I use a copyrighted framework that is logical, factual and reasonable and moves leaders toward self-aware.
    -A basis principle is; “those who aim to become a leader must accept accountability to lead their own process.”
    -Understanding oneself is a difficult process and requires transcending ego. Understanding others is a very hazardous process, subject to internal bias and mis-judgments.
    -Managing is for things (systems, projects, etc) and managing people is properly called supervision (a necessary role for people who cannot manage themselves.)
    -Reflection on experience and conscious engagement with new experience is the key to transforming knowledge to understanding.
    -Leaders understand that partnering is the first step toward teamwork and teamwork requires commitment to core work. High performing teams are self-led by internal leaders.
    -Leaders understand that those who aim to lead must engage in a leadership development process that involves understanding and mastery of what leaders do. Therefore, acquiring leadership skills is the only path to become an active leader.

  18. Ken Wessel

    July 26, 2011

    Ken Wessel • I have several thoughts to add to Abby’s comments:
    -It important for leaders to become self-aware (not an easy process) I use a copyrighted framework that is logical, factual and reasonable and moves leaders toward self-aware.
    -A basis principle is; “those who aim to become a leader must accept accountability to lead their own process.”
    -Understanding oneself is a difficult process and requires transcending ego. Understanding others is a very hazardous process, subject to internal bias and mis-judgments.
    -Managing is for things (systems, projects, etc) and managing people is properly called supervision (a necessary role for people who cannot manage themselves.)
    -Reflection on experience and conscious engagement with new experience is the key to transforming knowledge to understanding.
    -Leaders understand that partnering is the first step toward teamwork and teamwork requires commitment to core work. High performing teams are self-led by internal leaders.
    -Leaders understand that those who aim to lead must engage in a leadership development process that involves understanding and mastery of what leaders do. Therefore, acquiring leadership skills is the only path to become an active leader.

    Ken Wessel • Managing involves integration of processes of; organizing, planning, directing, auditing and controlling (perhaps others) and has to do with managing things. The transition from managing to leading requires ableness to manage oneself.

    Grounding in “Creating a Leadership Presence” is based on self-empowerment, (leaders understand they cannot empower another person) and can create an empowering climate and provide direction to others based on own achievement of self-empowerment.

    Self-empowerment begins with mastering the power of self-discipline (self-denial) followed by the power of self-accountability (power to avoid blaming others when things go badly or expecting special rewards when things go well.) Third force is mastering the power of self-initiative (self-direction.) Many organizations start with this power and regret it because individuals have not mastered power of self-discipline and self-accountability.

    Managing people is described as supervision (although people who are unable to manage themselves require supervision.)

    Ken Wessel • Managing involves integration of processes of; organizing, planning, directing, auditing and controlling (perhaps others) and has to do with managing things. The transition from managing to leading requires ableness to manage oneself.

    Grounding in “Creating a Leadership Presence” is based on self-empowerment, (leaders understand they cannot empower another person) and can create an empowering climate and provide direction to others based on own achievement of self-empowerment.

    Self-empowerment begins with mastering the power of self-discipline (self-denial) followed by the power of self-accountability (power to avoid blaming others when things go badly or expecting special rewards when things go well.) Third force is mastering the power of self-initiative (self-direction.) Many organizations start with this power and regret it because individuals have not mastered power of self-discipline and self-accountability.

    Managing people is described as supervision (although people who are unable to manage themselves require supervision.)

  19. Anna Goldrein

    July 26, 2011

    Anna Goldrein • I’d appreciate your feedback on but I’d say a leader trusts and inspires trust.

  20. Ed Burghard

    July 26, 2011

    @Anna – Trust is the foundation for any good relationship. The same is true for a leader. Trusting your people to do their best work and not micromanaging, trusting they have the best interest of the mission at heart, and trusting when a problem arises it is not a subversive move. When you put your trust in others as a leader, others will put their trust in you as well. In my career, I have tended to generally trust unconditionally until burned and then conditionally trust until the person earns back my unconditional trust. Not sure if it is right or wrong, it is just what I have always done.

  21. Sorin Ionescu

    July 27, 2011

    A not inspiring manager tries to manage people.
    A leader succeds to well manage decisions.
    A great leader manages decisions with excellence!

    I like the one minute speech of John C. Maxwell about management: http://johnmaxwellteam.com/management/

  22. Anita Treiber

    August 3, 2011

    try to move the balance
    -from focusing on tasks to focusing on people
    doing to thinking
    answering to asking
    telling to listening
    managing to coaching
    perfection in project management to maintaining motivation
    control to empowerment
    your career to developing your people/team

    +have a great boss (bonus)

  23. Dr. Myrna Araneta

    August 3, 2011

    • First off…let’s not look at a Manager as less than a Leader. I view a Manager as a Function with its own specific skill sets of planning, supervising, etc…earned within a system of Hierarchy. Leadership on the other hand requires a life long skill development with many components of attributes, values, character formation and life predispositions.

    Leadership applies to everyone–at all levels in the organization and all walks of life. Can we learn the skill sets of leadership? Yes, but, leadership is a life-long learning– it usually starts early in life and the learning starts with early modeling behaviors that we pick up from our parents, from school experiences and significant others in our life experiences.

    Having said these, I would not recommend splitting these 2 constructs. Leadership is a Development process that is systemic—So, I see this development as part of the company’s Talent Planning Process. It is concurrent with learning the functions of management.

    At the entry phase, the individual learns the functions of management and concurrently some assignments that will require him or her to start an initiative or project that addresses targeted, real life business issues. Then, this individual gets 360 degree feedback on his/her behavior. The individual would need a “coach” to process his/her conscious and blind spot behaviors as they handle specific situations during their assignments. I could go on and on.. with examples. I am trying to emphasize the ff:

    a. I do not believe that a Manager is less than a Leader…as if we are “Transitioning” or sunsetting from the “Old to a New state.” In real life, we can’t separate these 2 constructs.

    b. Development of leaders starts early in life—we pick this up at work..It is not a blank slate when the individual starts work.

    c.. Leadership Development at work starts at entry in their socialization process when they are hired into the organization.

    d. They would need a “coach” as they navigate their careers with the company. Individuals have both their conscious (more positive and public sides) and blind spots (dark sides) that play out in making business choices and interacting with others at work. The dark sides and blindspots often surface when one is stressed out or when certain triggers present themselves at work.

    e. To be effective in business and organizations, managerial skills are equally as important as leadership. Both skills are concurrently needed to succeed and be effective in their roles.

    http://www.myrnaaranetaphd.com/

    Inspiring Lives-Personal Stories of Sustained Transformation

  24. bob killian

    March 23, 2012

    Manage things.
    Lead people.

  25. George Harben

    March 23, 2012

    Ed, that is an interesting question. As I thought about it I realized it takes both types of individuals for an organization or company to be successful. Leaders are generally visionary, excel at instilling values in employees and can crystalize the essence of a product or service into terms customers and shareholders can easily relate to. Managers are more nuts and bolts. Vision must be translated into actions, products and services. This is where managers come in. Leaders see the world from a very high altitude and managers are on the ground. I am reminded of article I read years ago about Disney. One reason Michael Eisner was successful was due to Frank Wells, his COO. Wells was a manager of extraordinary skills. Eisner had vision to lead, Wells had skills to implement.

    Your question also made me think of an article Susan Brake posted on Twitter and LinkedIn. It is somewhat parallel to your question. It is from Forbes. The article is titled “The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You?”

    Link is http://www.forbes.com/sites/brennasniderman/2012/03/21/the-five-personalities-of-innovators-which-one-are-you/

  26. David McDonald

    March 24, 2012

    Real managers are good at organizing the “nuts & bolts”, knowing where they are at all times, and making sure that they are properly holding up their assigned weight. A real leader has the ability to motivate people. To motivate people, you must be passionately and brutally honest, lead by example, create trust, be self aware and have good self esteem. There are very few real leaders out there in the world.

  27. Norma M. Perez

    March 24, 2012

    Some years ago I read something like this “Leaders have followers, managers have subordinates” Hope I quoted it right.

  28. Alisha Crous

    March 28, 2012

    This is what Richard Brandson Tweeted yesterday: “A good leader leads from the front. Don’t get stuck in the office. Get out, meet people and listen to their stories.” I think its very applicable.

  29. Karla Anguiano

    March 28, 2012

    Inspiring and encouraging your team to give their best on a daily basis is definitly part of leading people…being an excellent listener, making them feel important and engage to the company vision and mision is key to lead when talking about leading a company, it makes a difference if your employees feel part of the project as a whole, and become brand ambassadors by free will and because they feel proud of the company they work for…this is not an easy task but for true leaders it is not impossible. Leading by example is an exercise that many people in current leading positions should follow up in order to achieve not only trust but admiration from their team members…

  30. Mo Luthra

    April 2, 2012

    I love this quote atributed to Alexander the Great, apparently he stated ‘an army of deer led by a lion, would defeat an army of lions led by a deer.’

    Gary I love your point, businesses really fail to see the ‘why’ and focus on ‘what’ they can offer. Forgetting the ethos, why they should exist and the emotional engagement they create.

  31. Karen Mooney

    April 2, 2012

    Direction v. motivation.
    A manager ensures that all the moving parts are working together appropriately and efficiently; reporting back on how systems are working. A leader fosters buy-in to the moving parts which are working efficiently, and to changes when the moving parts can be improved upon.

  32. […] The secrets really come down to caring about creating a relationship of mutual trust with your boss.  It is a matter of striving to always have your boss’s back with an expectation your boss will have your back in turn.  If you are interested, here is a blog post I authored giving advice to bosses on what they should be doing – BLOG POST […]

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