Good Leader vs. Great Manager
Would you rather be a good leader or a great manager? There isn’t a ‘right’ answer. It’s all in what you value, probably the stage of your career and many other factors. Lots of people think they are both a good manager and a good leader. The reality is, that rarely are people really good at both.
Recognizing Your Natural Strengths
Years ago, I took a leadership and strategic planning course. The instructor insisted that people who weren’t ‘born’ leaders, including the ability to think strategically, could be trained to do so. I disagreed then and I disagree now.
I think each of us has a natural strength toward either leadership or “managership.” We can build leadership “skills,” which are very important, but the notion that we can ‘teach’ people to be great leaders is problematic.
Learning to be a good manager is hard and takes a long time. Good managers make the team feel positive and empowered. Good managers take themselves out of the equation and focus on the task and the team.
Maybe I’m Wrong
But wait, most mothers (and a lot of dads) are the ultimate managers. They know how to get things done. They make it look easy to run a household, feed, clothe, educate, chauffeur, etc. At the same time, they lead each child to be their very best. Maybe classroom teachers learn both. Maybe master tradesmen, learn both.
Maybe if you practice every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 20 years; you learn both.
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – George S. Patton
Watch a child learning to walk. We let them fall down, over and over; they have lots of ways to get that toy. They’ll crawl, knee-walk, butt-slide and many more ways we’d never consider. If we dictated when and how our child learned to walk, would that be better than letting them find their own way? No. Because they are learning more than just walking. They are learning to learn, to gain command over their muscles.
The older we are, the more we want to tell people what to do AND how to do it. We’re afraid they might not do it … “the way we want.” When was the last time you let the people around you (co-workers, family members, etc.) figure out the ‘how’ to get something done.
The Power of Letting Go
There is a place in the world for control freaks (think safety). But if General Patton was able to let soldiers find the “how” within the structure of the military, then surely we can let go of the “how” at work and at home.
People rise to the occasion if they understand what they’re supposed to do and, whenever possible, WHY they need to do it. Sometimes when people complain about having to much to do, it’s because they don’t know how to let go, ask for help, or see that there are many ways to solve a problem. Think about it.
Photo credit: Happily Learning to Walk Delta Mike
Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom (Gen. George Patton)
Thinking back on my career, I see 5 turning points, i.e. mistakes:
- blabbing when I should have kept my mouth shut (my most common)
- being disrespectful to a boss
- not admitting when I was wrong
As I suffered the consequences of my actions (getting fired or pulled off a big project); I berated myself. What helped me was…
- talking about it to someone I trusted
- telling myself that I am human
- examining why I behaved that way (what was in it for me)
This last step is where I learned the most. When I would act against my own best interest, there was usually something to justify it. “He deserved to be taken down a peg.” “They don’t admit their mistakes, why should I?”
My self-defeating behavior stemmed from insecurity and a lack of self understanding.
Success depends on learning from mistakes. Mistakes are good. They wear down our sharp edges. I can look in the mirror and smile. Make friends with your mistakes.
Photo Credit: The Colors Emerge Familymwr
In 1930, many people found themselves without work; without a way to support their families. Have things changed? Some have; some haven’t.
Take a closer look at the picture. This man, probably dressed in his good clothes, is walking the streets, advertising, ON HIS BACK, that he needs work. Imagine if you had to do this. That you were so desperate to work that you literally had to walk the streets with a sign.
Humbling isn’t it?
Just for today, think about how fortunate you are. Whether you have a job or not. If you have a place to live, food to eat, a family, good health or any combination of these, you are one of the lucky people. For today, I choose gratitude for what I have.
(If you need a little help finding a job… check out, “What’s Different About Job Search in 2015?”)
Photo credit: I know 3 trades
Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.
“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie
Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.
Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.
I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.
Photo credit: Whisper
I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.
When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.
When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.
While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.
In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.
When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I” in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”
The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.
Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.
One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.
“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”
How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.
We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)
Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.
By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?
Are you trying something new? How does it feel? Exciting? Scary? Confusing?
Are you feeling like you want to try something new but you’re afraid? (Seems reasonable!)
Have you stopped considering trying new things because you are:
- too old, too tired, too cranky, too dull, too young, too blah, blah, blah
In this inspirational talk, the founder of ModCloth (which she started at 17), talks about why it’s good and even powerful to be a ‘rookie.’ When we are rookies, we have no preconceived ideas about how it’s ‘supposed’ to work. That makes it easier (and even necessary) to innovate. We ask rookie questions, we make rookie decisions and we hopefully have rookie energy. Learning is energizing.
There is power in rookiedom. I’m not suggesting that you don’t ask for help or get advice from trusted advisers. Of course, that makes sense. But it’s also important to trust your rookie ‘gut’.
If you are accomplished at something but still want to get better or if you want to expand your capabilities, consider talking to a rookie. Someone who knows very little about the topic. They may have insights that all the experts in the world never would have had.
I was a rookie teacher… I cringe when I think of how naive I was. In many ways, I see how those early lessons shaped the teacher I am today. I’m excited to be a rookie again. I’ll keep you up to date on my, ahem, progress.
Photo credit: School Friends Woodley Wonderworks
I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?
I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.
I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?
The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.
Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:
- Constantly be learning
- Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
- Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.
Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.
Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell
What’s blocking your vision?
I have a vision of my self as a creative person. I’d like to consider myself an artist. I’m not concerned whether other people think I’m an artist, I want to think of myself that way.
I’m not sure what is blocking me. Is my hair in my face? Do I lack motivation? Do I need a teacher? Do I think I’m too old?
I’m committed to reaching this goal because it’s the only goal I’ve ever had in my entire life that is just for me. I’ll keep you updated on my journey.
Photo credit: Blonde girl splitshire