Industry Market Trends

Managers? OK. Leaders? Better.

Feb 14, 2006

Ask anyone and they'll tell you. There's a difference between managers and leaders: Management is a career, leadership is a calling. But experts say leadership skills can be developed and mastered. Here we provide ways in which to improve such skills and the importance of doing so.

Anyone can be a good manager, according to management professional John Reh: "It is as much trainable skill as it is inherent ability; as much science as art."

You've likely heard about the Gallup survey of more than 1 million employees, the survey of which found that employees' No. 1 reason for leaving a company was their immediate supervisors. The survey went on to conclude that poorly managed workgroups, on average, are half as productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups. If you really need a reason to be a good manager or boss, there it is.

The following are sine qua non on-the-job qualities of a good manager, according to Reh:

• You are consistent, but not rigid; dependable, but can change your mind. You make decisions, but easily accept input from others.

• You are a little bit crazy. You think out-of-the box. You try new things and if they fail, you admit the mistake, but don't apologize for having tried.

• You are not afraid to "do the math". You make plans and schedules and work toward them.

• You are nimble and can change plans quickly, but you are not flighty.

• You see information as a tool to be used, not as power to be hoarded.

"To succeed, employees need to know that they're trusted and their work is valued," noted a Forbes article on How To Motivate Bad Employees earlier this month.

On that note, one of the surest ways suck the life force out of employees is micromanaging, said Forbes. "Micromanaging tells the employee just the opposite, and constant checks are as annoying as a fussy elementary-school teacher telling you to print your name and the date in the upper right-hand corner of every assignment.

"The smart manager sets goals and lets employees perform within clearly defined parameters. Gushy praise is instantly recognized as fake and won't cut it. Thank an employee individually for his or her contribution and repeat your thanks at a staff meeting. Always use outstanding performance to jump to the larger issue: Here's how we solved the problem, or here's how we beat the competition."

Manager —> Leader

"Leadership" is somewhat an intangible, an amorphous word, yet a charismatic component that some people have and others don't. Or is it? Can anybody transform from manager to leader?

Whether the group's members you oversee are called employees, associates, coworkers, teammates or other, what they are looking for is someone in whom they can place their trust; someone they know is working for the greater good — for them and for the organization, according to Leslie L. Kossoff, consultant and head of Kossoff Management Consulting. They're looking for someone they can and want to follow.

So how do you lead in such a position?

Said Kossoff:

What you have to have is clearly defined convictions — and, more importantly, the courage of your convictions to see them manifest into reality. Only when you understand your role as guide and steward based on your own most deeply held truths can you move from manager to leader.

Once you've identified your convictions and began aligning your behaviors as such, recommended Kossoff, you should take steps in building a collaborative culture based on your end goal. Seek employees' input regarding their needs and their hopes for their jobs and the larger organization. "Talk to internal and external customers and suppliers about their needs. Find out what more and what else you can be and do to create success. Enroll and engage in conversation and communication. Sit back. Listen. Take in as much as you can. Look for trends and themes." Find out what and where the possibilities are — and how you can effect them.

A professor who has studied winning streaks has come up with the fundamentals for leading a sports team — and any other organization, really — to success. According to Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, the most critical component of leadership is not self-confidence: Even more important is having and inspiring confidence in others. To lead, you must get others to put forth their strongest efforts and guide those efforts in a clear direction, she said in a passage excerpted by Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

Indeed, leadership is about creating an environment in which people are given the support they need to excel, and thus, leadership from many different places can emerge. The following are what Kanter believes are a leader's three imperatives, in every sector and level — "to ensure accountability, cultivate collaboration, and encourage initiative."

1) Establish a culture of straight-talkers. They must foster open communication and create "humiliation-free zones," where both positives and negatives can be discussed without fear. For instance, Gillette, Verizon, and Continental Airlines have environments where data is abundant and where people are dissuaded from denying or covering up facts.

2) Lay out expectations. Continually reminding people about standards and clearly delineating goals lets them focus on both the big picture and the day-to-day execution. While making people own up to their responsibilities, leaders should also place them in positions where they can meet those responsibilities. In short, noted Kanter, "leaders should set people up to succeed."

3) Ensure that information is transparent and accessible. If performance information is widely and abundantly available, people will be better equipped to place high standards on their performance, on those of others and on the system as well. Tools such as mass meetings, voicemail updates, quarterly report cards, and regular performance appraisals encourage accountability. In short, leaders must make sure that people are taking on responsibility and have the support to handle it well.

Be a better manager. Be a leader.


How To Be A Better Manager

by F. John Reh (management)

How To Motivate Bad Employees

by Scott Reeves

Forbes, Feb. 2, 2006

From Manager to Leader

by Leslie L. Kossoff (management)

How Leaders Build Winning Streaks

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Harvard Business School, Sept. 27, 2004

Additional Resources

Are Leaders Born or Made?

by Bruce Avolio

Pyschology Today

Managing: The art of the absurd

by Richard Farson, Jere Smith

Psychology Today Management articles

F. John Reh Management Tips,

Keys to being a good supervisor

JIST Publishing, Inc.

8 Tips for Bold Leadership

by Alice Dragoon

CIO Magazine, Aug. 15, 2005

Attention, Class!!! 16 Ways to Be a Smarter Teacher

by Chuck Salter

Fast Company, December 2001

The Mark of a Good Manager

by Amy Joyce

The Washington Post, June 19, 2005

What makes a leader?

by Hilary Owen

USA Today, Nov. 18/Dec. 9, 2002

USA Today Career Tracks Index, management

Management Skills Blog

wikiHOW: How to Become a Good Manager