Anyone within an organization has the potential to become a leader, but managers MUST be leaders. In schools and in our organizations we have been taught and conditioned to believe that managers and leaders are two separate people which is quite a harmful assumption. As a result we have managers who cannot lead and leaders who cannot manage. A leader who cannot manage has a vision of where they want to go but no idea of how to get there. A manager who cannot lead is not able to build trust and create engagement within an organization to get to where they need to go. Neither of these scenarios are practical or effective.
Management and managers are human inventions that were designed with a single purpose in mind, to enforce controls and protocols. The role of a manager was to make sure that employees showed up on time, did their jobs, didn’t cause any problems, and showed up the next day to repeat the process. There was no emphasis on creativity, innovation, engagement, empowerment, or the like; nor was there a need for any of these things. However today we live and work in a very different world where all of these things are essential. This means that managers MUST be leaders. I believe we have reached an important tipping point which is forcing us to rethink managers and management altogether. I have been exploring this in a series of posts which you can find here (with much more on the way):
- The Five Trends Shaping the Future of Work
- The 7 Principles of the Future Employee
- The Evolution of the Employee
- The 10 Principles of the Future Manager
- The Evolution of the Manager
- The 14 Principles of the Future Organization
The stereotypical manager focuses on control, delegation, productivity, the bottom line, process, and efficiency. The leader focuses on vision, engagement, big ideas, empowerment, innovation, and transformation. One without the other is meaningless. Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs are of course considered to be great leaders in the world of business, but do you think that they didn’t know how to build a team, look at the bottom line, execute strategies, and improve productivity? Of course they did. We don’t need to look to the likes of Bezos or Jobs, any manager regardless of how junior or senior needs to be able to come up with big ideas, inspire employees, take on a certain degree of risk, or engage team members. We spend a lot of time taking people in positions of power and trying to train them to be leaders when we should be finding the leaders inside of our organizations and training them to be managers. The only thing worse than working for a manager that can’t lead is missing out on the opportunity to turn our existing leaders into managers. We need to stop assuming that “managers” is a dirty word, if managers must be leaders then they should be looked at with a positive lens.
Greg Schott, the CEO of Mulesoft is a MANGER that personally interviews every candidate that applies to work there.
Todd Etter, the chief collaboration officer of The Motley Fool is a MANGER who uses games to inspire and engage his employees.
Lynanne Kunkel, the VP of Global Talent Development at Whirlpool is a MANGER that recently helped introduce a program across the company that instills the values of leadership and innovation across all employees.
Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, is a MANAGER who measures “heart count” at his company to look at how engaged and happy the employees are.
Scott Abel, the CEO of Spiceworks, is a MANGER who has something called “slices with Scott” where he orders pizzas for the whole company who then gets to spend hours asking Scott any question they want whether it be “what’s our company strategy going forward” to “how come you don’t have kids.”
We can no longer afford to segment and separate managers and leaders, this does nothing but hurt our organizations. If you want to formally be placed in a position of “power” where you help drive your organization forward then the pre-requisite for this is that you must be a leader. That is, you have earned followers, you have built trust among your co-workers, and you are able to think big and inspire others. But if you are not a leader at your organization than you should also not be a manager.
Management and leadership need to be taught in schools as interconnected disciplines that cannot exist without the other. Leaders within organizations should be mentored so that they know how to properly manage. We must stop referring to leaders and managers as two separate people. And perhaps most importantly, we need to give leaders at our organizations the opportunity to be officially recognized as managers. Only then will we be able to create organizations where employees are engaged, organizations that are able to attract and retain top talent, and organizations that are capable of surviving and thriving in a rapidly changing world.
Wouldn’t you want to work for an organization where all the managers are leaders? Wouldn’t you want to be that kind of a manager?