Traits of a Leader

Is the Organization Managed or Led?©

William Truax asked:

This is a really important question these days since the understanding of management and leadership has gotten so distorted that the terms are used synonymously. The result is that most managers think they are leaders when they definitely are not.

So what is the difference and why is it important? There is a clear difference between managing and leading, and the effect it has on an organization is dramatic.

Virtually anyone who reads and studies this article will be able to tell what kind of organization they are dealing with after a very short time. You will also know how to deal with that organization more effectively.

The first thing to look for is organizational growth. Managed organizations tend to grow quickly and then plateau. Organizations with strong leadership grow more slowly, but keep on growing.

So the goals of the organization can be a good indicator as to whether it is managed or led.

I am working with an organization right now that is having very fast growth. They are hiring managers in several states to run their rapidly growing facilities. They don’t have time to train their managers, so they hire people with the skills they need today.

An important point for this discussion is, “You manage things and lead people.”

My client is hiring people to run their various offices, managers. Managers assure that the day-to-day operations are carried out.

A management-oriented company is easier to expand at the outset since you hire people with known skills to manage the organization.

You get a faster return since the manager hits the ground running. And it seems logical to hire managers when you need them.

As a brief side note here I want to mention micromanagers. These are people who manage too much. They control virtually everything, allowing no one to function independently. In most cases, a micromanager should not have people working for them since they do everything anyway. (The one exception to this rule in my opinion is a surgeon. I want him to be in total control when he is working on me.)

I am not downplaying the importance of management; every organization must have managers to function. So every organization will have people performing a management role. This does not mean that every organization will have effective leadership, however.

I see this most clearly in sales management. Sales managers, for the most part, over see the day to day operations of a sale department, establish sales goals, and work with Marketing to co-ordinate activities. Rarely, if ever, do sales managers focus on developing people. I don’t consider an annual sales training class as a people development program.

And this is where the real difference comes in. Leadership, not management, is required if an organization is going to experience sustained, long-term growth.

One of the most important actions that a leader takes is to hire people based predominantly on character traits. That is, leaders hire people who possess the character traits that underscore the values of the organization and help it grow over the long run. They know and understand the rule, “Hire by character traits. You can teach skills.”

This obviously takes longer, so would not be practical for my fast-growing client. However, the downside to their situation is that they are not developing the next generation of managers, or more importantly, developing leaders. They have hired for skill-sets only, with little concern for character traits. They will soon hit a wall to growth and not know how to get over it unless they start creating and grooming leaders.

One other problem organizations face when hiring by skill-set alone is interpersonal conflict. When you don’t take character traits into consideration you can find that you may have people who can manage but don’t necessarily fit in. The single biggest reason people leave companies is due to interpersonal problems. This is an expensive situation many companies seem to face continuously.

Now, let’s look at what my client will be doing to solve this dilemma.

The most important thing they did was to recognize that they need to develop a team from within the organization to avoid many of the problems they could face in the future.

They now understand the difference between management and leadership, and want to focus on leadership. However, they still are hiring managers due to the rapid growth.

This company is lucky in that they have a core group of senior managers who are good potential leaders. They just need to be trained, and that is relatively easy.

The first thing I did was to get the team together and explain that they will now have a dual role – management of resources and operations, and leadership of people.

Leaders develop people, set the standards of performance, and focus on achieving the long term goals of the organization.

The next thing we did was select potential leaders within the organization in whom they will begin the grooming process.

As you can see, this requires planning and time – not something that an organization focused solely on management will do.

Leadership requires skills development, mentoring, training, delegation, patience, and a whole host of other well thought-out actions that are over and above simply running the day to day operations of the organization.

The most difficult aspect of leadership is that is doesn’t have an immediate return which is hard to accept in our society where short term thinking is a way of life.

The nice thing about leadership is that it is easy to assimilate into any organization if the senior level people wish to do so. And the rewards are usually beyond all expectations.

Lead well,

Bill Truax

© copyright 2008 WJ Truax


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