We need more managers and fewer leaders. There—I said it, contradicting all of the noise that schools, colleges, universities, trade journals and books, magazines, and talk shows have been spewing for well over a decade.
Why? Nobody wants to be a manager anymore because it is hard and not cool. And, no one likes to be managed by (mostly poor) managers—thus management has gotten a very bad stigma associated with it. In addition, so many people, it appears, think that they are an island, a thought leader.
It seems so many want to immediately be the CEO of their own startup, proven via the popularity of TV such as Shark Tank on ABC (ABC.com).
While I am awfulizing the paradigm a bit to make a point, this situation will not lead to an effective and productive level of team effort as everyone “has the vision” and no one is looking after and/or writing any work plans and doing any measurable work. Everyone, it appears wants to be the strategic thinker. Let me tell you, folks—30 years of experiences might bring you to that point—but most of us, while taking our journey, need to simply be good workers, and good managers.
This, and the next couple of blog posts on management and leadership will explore why this is true and examine a few things we can do to be more effective And, you can always find a more in-depth and action-based discussion on these topics in our free eBook, Volunteering.
The popular choice today is for everyone to be leaders/warriors. Leadership—not management—programs are all the rage, whether for the individual or organization. Many years ago, one of my Native American mentors lamented that everyone thinks he is a warrior, but there really are so few. True warriors and leaders often pay a high price personally to effect change; and consequently, they are very hard to find and very hard to keep alive and engaged in any one place for very long.
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Leadership skills are not the same as—nor should they replace—management skills. Rather, they should enhance them. Both are necessary. Kouzes and Posner (1987) have written extensively on these topics. They explain that Leadership is the act of setting a vision, being innovative, inspiring, and/or spearheading change. A leader sets the direction and inspires a belief in the idea and in the volunteers of the organization. Leadership does not just come from above—anyone can be a leader at any level of the organization.
They also differentiate Management as the ability to direct, control, and achieve based on a pre-established vision, direction, or plan. A manager executes by directing resources to achieve an objective. Successful management is goal-, benchmark-, and deliverable-based execution. Manage yourself and manage others as a peer or volunteer manager.
Leadership skills are important, and much is written these days about their value. However, people must be skilled in the art of management for an organization to find sustainable success. Individuals must manage themselves and managers must do the same as well as manage others. The work must be implemented and projects closed, not simply planned out and discussed in meetings. Projects(s) implementation and execution are key to everyone’s success.
It is wonderful and even necessary to have someone with the vision and capacity to plot a course to a brave new world. That is leadership. But what is the value if no one is capable of working toward achieving the goal—i.e., of taking the sometimes boring and methodical steps necessary to accomplish the work? We must develop and employ great managers of people; we must all work toward managing ourselves in a purposeful and fulfilling manner. So let us begin that journey with a few suggestions about how to build the organizational foundation that will lead to robust execution. Our next couple of posts will do just that.
With that said—here is some homework— take a little time to study the difference between a strategic plan and a work plan (Google search) in order to better understand that we do not accomplish successful projects without both and that most of us are guided each day by work plans and not the strategic plan/vision of the organization. In closing and until next time, if some of this hits home, go and do some work planning and work—rather than simply going to meetings, having vision, and talking about work planning. Have a good day!
About the author: Karl’s volunteer (and management) experience spans three decades. He recently retired as a chief strategy officer, after having managed the implementation of (the work plans of) the strategic plan of a 1500+ employee service sector organization. He is now a principal with SunshineValley Communications, www.sunshinevalley.org. He holds degrees in engineering and economics and is near completion of a second book on the management of highly competitive environments. He has provided strategic planning, project management and technical assistance to many volunteer organizations and communities. Karl never delivers one without the other as he enjoys leading, managing, and seeing projects to a successful close. He lives in the US Missouri Ozarks and can be reached at kburgher@SunshineValley.org.
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