Guest Post – Steve Keating

Guest Post - Steve KeatingToday’s guest post is written “for leaders only” by Steve Keating, a leader who definitely walks the talk. I have been following Steve on Twitter (@LeadToday) for quite a while now, and find him to be one of the most selfless individuals tweeting today. He offers sage advice and counsel, does not attempt to sell anybody anything, and his true intent is simply to help others become better people and better leaders. In addition to his leadership wisdom, what I’ve truly come to appreciate about Steve is his direct, no nonsense approach to leadership which you’re about to experience first hand…Welcome to leadership Steve Keating style…

Yep, that’s what it says.  For Leaders Only!  If you’re not a leader or have no interest in becoming one, you can just skip this post and go about doing whatever it is that followers do.  If you are a leader, or want to be, then read on.

First of all, notice that the title is not, for managers only.  In the sometimes menacing business environment where we all work today, the last thing any organization needs is more managers.  While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability of gaining the commitment of theirs.  Today, perhaps more the ever before, a key element to success is commitment.

Leading people is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication and a strong desire to see others succeed. The type of skills we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, and to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of any organization need to thrive.  All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people, and most say it is the critical part of their job.  They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.  Yet, many managers today attempt to succeed from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.”  Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be.  It may not look like it, but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our organization from behind them.  If you’re the leader of a team, organization or business today, and you’re not investing time with your followers on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on with them.  Here is a test for you:  how many times in the last year has a member of your team had a problem or made a mistake and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?”  You’re the leader, you shouldn’t need to ask the question, you should know!  Think about it.

How about dedication?  Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses.  Leaders don’t let little things get in their way, managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success.  Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers, they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing, even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the organization.  Are you a leader that leads their team through challenges or are you a manager that uses excuses to explain shortcomings?  It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time.  What do you think?

Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders.  A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible.  Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and execution.  Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.

Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best. A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen.  A leader raises issues, debates them and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow.  Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it.  Leaders see change as opportunity.  Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example. 

Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader?  Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage?  If that means making some changes, will you do it?  The choice is of course yours to make but before you do, ask yourself one last question, would you rather be managed or lead?  I thought so! 

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Thanks for the great contribution Steve…

Leadership vs. Management

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Leadership MattersAs a person who makes their living in the field of leadership, I can tell you without any doubt that “Leadership” is different than “Management.” While there seems to be a never ending stream of politically correct pontificating in corporate circles about the differences between managers and leaders, most of it misses the mark. Leaders and managers play different roles, and have different purposes. They both are unique in their value, and in their contribution. While most of the commentary I have read on Leadership vs. Management attempts to please all constituencies, those of you who have read my work in the past know that I am rarely politically correct, nor do I ever seek to try and please all the people all the time.

While there is clearly a need for both managers and leaders in the business world, and while I respect and have developed close friendships with many a manager, this author simply believes that the law of scarcity applies to the topic at hand. There is an infinitely greater supply of managers causing a much greater demand for leaders. Put simply, because leaders are much more difficult to come by, they are therefore more valuable to the enterprise.

The paragraph above begs the question why are there fewer leaders than managers? I believe it is largely for one of three reasons:

  1. I know this isn’t a popular stance, but the reality is that not everyone has it in them to be a leader, and thus the old axiom “a born leader.”
  2. Many people that possess leadership ability haven’t cultivated their leadership skills to the point where they’re comfortable in leading, or;
  3. While there are many managers that possess highly refined leadership skills, many of them simply don’t possess the desire to be in a leadership role. 

The intrinsic quality of leadership often begins with nothing more than raw talent and a certain state of mind. To possess the innate qualities of a leader is however not the same thing as being a leader. As important as your DNA is, effective leadership skills are developed and refined by time, experience, and a true desire to be more than just a manager…the desire to be a true leader.

Let’s breakdown the DNA of a typical leader A leader is usually a very creative, dynamic, outgoing, and unflappable individual. They tend to think big picture focusing on vision and strategy while looking to make a long-term impact. By way of contrast let’s examine the DNA of a manager. Managers are usually more analytical while focusing on process and procedure looking to make short-term contributions. Two key points of distinction between leaders and managers are that leaders attend to the needs of the enterprise with a focus on the future, while managers attend to the needs of individuals with a focus on the present.

We have all witnessed companies that have been over managed in the absence of leadership. When leadership has been abdicated to management in a corporate setting you will always find that growth slows, morale declines, creativity wanes, and the competitive edge is weakened. That being said, I have personally experienced the value of true leadership at every stage of my life from the athletic playing field, to the military battleground, to the corporate boardroom. Let’s look at an example of the value of leadership from each of the three areas:

  • An example from the world of athletics: If you were the owner of an NFL franchise and had to choose between having the #1 quarterback in the league or the #1 center in league what would your choice be? Again this doesn’t mean that a great center isn’t valuable, it just means that the role player isn’t as valuable to the team as having the talent factor and leadership characteristics of a true impact player. Simply reflect back upon your own life experiences and you’ll see that you have come across many utility players over the years, but very few franchise players.
  • A military example: Contrast if you will the differences of two enlisted men of the same rank. The first is a NCO in a headquarters unit charged with the administrative support of a company commander.  The second NCO is a combat controller in a special operations unit charged with coordinating air strikes from the ground behind enemy lines.  While both of the enlisted men described above hold the same rank, are part of a team, and play important roles, one is clearly an impact player in a leadership capacity while the other is solely a utility player acting in a management capacity.  The military has determined that it is a rare individual who exhibits the characteristics necessary to become a member of a special operations unit.  Therefore they are willing to make a much larger investment in the combat controller, and in return, the military expects a much larger contribution from that individual.
  • A corporate example: This example will be short and sweet, but hopefully very clear in its statement of impact. Who do you believe is of greater value and makes a larger contribution to a corporation, someone who administers policy and creates processes, or someone who sets the vision and creates the strategy? Just examine the difference in the pay stubs of the two individuals contrasted above and you’ll quickly see who the enterprise deems to be of higher value.

I want to be clear that I am not “anti” management. I am however very “pro” leadership when it comes to optimizing the talent factor in any organization. My bias toward leadership doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the principles behind such truisms as: “there is no “I” in team” or, “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole” or that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Rather it simply means that I believe you achieve a much greater return on human capital with investments made into leadership due to the scope and scale of the impact that a leader can make. The bottom line is that I prefer to lead rather than manage, and to be led rather than to be managed.

The trick is to invest in your managers such that they embrace and adopt leadership traits and characteristics. The strongest organizations apply leadership development programs across the enterprise to enrich the quality and productivity of their workforce. The simple truth of the matter is that if you don’t develop leaders from within you won’t have depth or scale to your organization as it applies to leadership. A bonus is always hidden when you come across a great leader who happens to possess strong management skills as well…    

Doing The Right Thing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Do The Right Thing...Doing the right thing…seems like a basic principle that most people should follow doesn’t it? One of my favorite things to write about is the topic of leadership, and one of my favorite business theorists is Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker authored more than 35 books during his lifetime, and is considered by many to be the founding father on the study of management practices. In this blog post I will breakdown one of my favorite “Druckerisms” which states that: “managers do things right, while leaders do the right things.” At first glance this statement might not seem to be all that insightful, but I believe it is a very powerful observation that highlights the difference in philosophies between most managers and leaders.

Let me begin by stating that I take a lot of heat for pointing out the differences between leaders and managers. While they can be one in the same from a skill and talent perspective (managers can be leaders, and leaders can be managers), because they will typically have different functional responsibilities, this rarely ends-up being the case. Doing things right is a trait that causes many managers to be focused on security, which is often underpinned by fear based motivations. Doing things right will drive managers toward a position of being safe and politically correct in their approach to business. It is this fear based motivation that causes managers to protect turf as opposed to gain ground, to control as opposed to inspire, and to refine as opposed to create. Doing things right leads to comfort zone management that completely inhibits the ability to innovate.

By way of contrast Doing the right things is a trait that causes leaders to be guided by their instincts, principles, values and desire to achieve. Leaders motivated by doing the right things are not risk adverse, rarely politically correct, and they thrive on shaking things up. It is leaders ability to do the right things that innovate, motivate, create and inspire. Doing the right thing is often times controversial, but true leaders are not daunted by the thought of conflict, as are most managers. Leaders guided by doing the right thing are willing to step-up and make the big decisions that open markets, exploit opportunities, and drive innovation. If you’re not sure whether you are doing things right or doing the right things take yourself through the following personal assessment:

1. When was the last time you witnessed something that you didn’t agree with, but kept quiet on the issue to protect yourself rather than voicing your concern in order to protect the enterprise?

2. When was the last time you rocked the boat by design? Rocking the boat by default or by mistake doesn’t count.

3. When was the last time you drove innovation? Hint: purchasing a new software application is not innovation.

4. If a survey was taken of your peers and subordinates, would they refer to you as a leader who inspires, motivates and mentors, or a manager who exercises authority and control?

It is important to realize that everyone has fears. Ask anyone who has ever been in combat and they’ll tell you that it is being in touch with their innate sense of fear that kept them alive. However as important as it is to be aware of your fears, as a leader you cannot allow yourself to be ruled by them. Don’t “just do it”, rather just “do the right thing” and watch your successes multiply.