Lead, Don’t Just Manage

“The main dangers in this life,” asserted Nancy Astor, the first woman to serve in England’s Parliament, “are the people who want to change everything-or nothing.” There are dangers associated with extremes; thus, the moderate, middle-of-the-road approach to change is often the wisest. It acknowledges that much of what executives are already doing is exactly what they should be doing.

But if company leaders are doing what they were doing five years ago, they simply aren’t optimizing their managerial talents. The pace of change today demands a change of pace. The skills that serve leaders well today cannot, in toto, serve them well five years from now.


You’ll need to urge a paradoxical change-within-stasis style. Encourage your staff to determine core values and maintain fidelity to them. At the same time, have them examine processes. Where improvement is needed, they have to make it.

You can encourage programs of continuous learning, of continuous improvement within your organization. You can help effect positive change. But only if you walk the oft-cited talk. Quite simply, theory must be put into practice. The best practitioners of management theory know this. They believe this. They live this on a daily basis. If the application of new knowledge is already something your employees are doing on a daily basis, congratulate them.

If your staff members, though, are not used to learning and experimenting to enhance their managerial style, help them acquire new knowledge and use it with their subordinates. Help them facilitate the transition between information and expertise.


Perhaps the best example of change-for-the-sake-of-improvement comes from former CEO Jack Welch. He instituted Work-Out sessions at General Electric. As demanding as the term implies, participants in this forum-like setting get a mental workout. They are also allowed to take unnecessary work out of their jobs. And, they can work out problems together. A group of 40-100 people from all ranks and functions goes to a meeting site and is briefly addressed by the boss, who provides an agenda and then leaves the room. The group breaks into teams and each tackles one part of the agenda–listing complaints, proposing solutions, preparing presentations for the third day, when the boss returns.

The boss has no idea of what has been discussed. All he knows as he sits in the front of the room, is that senior executives are there in the back, watching as he listens to proposals on which he must make a decision. Each team makes its proposals. The boss can only: agree to the proposal or say “no” or ask for more information by a certain date. That’s it.

These sessions have proven to be highly effective–on many levels, not the least of which is the money saved by the ideas presented. Work-Outs are but one example of the responsibilities placed upon today’s leaders. The challenges–from employees, from the CEO, from 토토사이트 stockholders, from the media, from technological developments, from the competition-driven global environment–are enormous.

Unfortunately, the past no longer offers the comfort of precedent–not in today’s rapidly changing climate. Miles Davis’ dictum for musicians, “Don’t do tomorrow what you did yesterday,” applies equally well to executives. Today’s leaders are charged with charting new directions for the future, accepting responsibilities amid challenging circumstance.


Just as companies have come to regard themselves as integrated, highly responsive, and evolving systems, so are those who lead expected to integrate diverse elements; to respond easily, clearly, quickly; to evolve continuously as learners and leaders.As it has for most of you, the topic of leadership has long held fascination for me. After studying the topic at length, I’ve come to the conclusion that a leader can be defined, quite simply, as one who effects positive change. This basic definition satisfies questions like these that always arise when leadership-definitions are formulated: “Was Hitler a leader?” (by this definition, no) and “Can you have a leader without followers?” (by this definition, yes).

By contrast, a manager is one who maintains the status quo. To be sure, there are times when managers are called upon to lead. And, there are occasions when leaders are expected to manage. But, there are managers who could not be called leaders. And, there are leaders who do not have the title of manager. The roles are distinct and discrete although they admittedly overlap from time to time.

Author Ken Blanchard maintains that the key to leadership today is influence, not authority. And John Maxwell asserts, “Leadership is influence. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.” If you want that CEO hat to fit perfectly on your head, you must develop skills of influence. Leaders who rule autocratically don’t rule long. In the rare circumstance when they do, subversive activity surrounds their rule. Loyalty is minimal in such circumstances; so is respect. But, trhose who lead by influencing others, by motivating average employees to make extraordinary contributions–they experience just the opposite. They inspire trust, cohesion, and harmony.

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