I get asked this question a fair amount by leaders everywhere: “When should I be a leader and when should I be a manager?” What they often forget to ask at the same time though is… “When should I get out of the way?”
The textbook definition of leadership is, ‘getting things done with and through other people.’ I know that is not entirely, or even remotely, helpful in answering the above question. Here’s how I break it down…
When should I be Leading?
- Your job as a leader is to create clarity. By this I mean that your team, department or organization should know clearly what:
- The Core Values of the organization are. Everyone needs to be living the guiding values of the organization, every day. There are also Aspirational Values that leadership needs to nurture and embed into the team’s everyday life.
- The Purpose is. Your purpose is ‘why’ you are in business. Why employees choose you (other than salary). Why customers choose you. It is your cause. It is not ‘Profit’ – that is an outcome. It is the altruistic things that people selflessly do everyday because they want to, not because they are told to. Leaders bring that to life.
- Where is the business going. Team members need direction. They need to know the ‘what.’ Or, put another way, what mountain top they are climbing toward and what it will look and feel like when they get there.
- What is the plan. Leadership is about creating a plan for getting to the mountain top. Employees want to know the ‘how’.
- What is my role. Employees all need clarity around their roles and responsibilities because they want to know how they contribute to the success of the business. This is a HUGE engagement factor for people.
- When their is Chaos or a Crisis. Lead from out front. Show people that you have a plan and that everything is going to be okay.
When should I be Managing?
When people know the purpose, vision, plan and their part, they do not need to be micro-managed, unless of course, you want to have people quit or worse still, stay and go through the day like an episode of the “Walking Dead”. Here though is when and how you can support:
- Monitoring plans. Like a Project Manager running a construction project, you need to be on top of governing your plan. That means regularly reviewing plans with your team to ensure that what is supposed to get done gets done. When progress is off plan, you need to help individuals or the team decide how to get back on track.
- Human beings like to keep score. In business, there needs to be scoreboards or dashboards that show the team where they are in comparison to the plans. Managers ensure that the scoreboards or communicated, understood and kept up to date.
- Managers create structure or standard operating procedures so that stuff (products or services) can be delivered in a replicable way. Structure actually sets the team free to be more empowered; however, it first needs to be built. It takes the discipline of a manager to do this.
- Got brand new people? When you add brand new people to the company or the skill, you have to engage with them in a highly directive way ensuring that they have work given to them in small items-sized pieces. This is very different than micro-managing as it is exactly what a new employee is looking for.
When should I get out of the way?
- Got everything checked off in the lists above? Get out of the way and let your team(s) do their jobs.
- Got team members that know their jobs and how to do their jobs? Get out of the way.
- Confused about what to do with any ’spare time’ you have? Bring your team members coffee, tea and bakery items. You might as well make yourself useful.
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TEC Top Speaker of the Year for 2018. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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