Good Leaders are Good Managers

Not every good manager is a good leader but every good leader needs to be a good manager. Frequently leadership students look down on management studies based on the axiom that anyone can be a manager based on position but not everyone can be a leader. However a leader that does not also establish and enforce controls; organize people, processes, and material; plan how to accomplish this mission; execute within established controls with existing resources; and provide necessary resources will fail. The reason many good manager manage to succeed even though they are not good leaders is that leadership is only one element of management. Those good managers find other people to compensate for the less than great leadership which in turn means the organization has good leadership. Likewise leaders who lack other management skills find people who are at least good and look for those who are great to compensate for those weaknesses in the leader. Whole textbooks are written on each of these areas, so dear reader, please understand these thousand or so words only provide you with a starting point in your understanding of becoming a good leader who is also a good manager.

Controlling

Establishing controls early ensures leaders can measure performance and effectiveness.
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In the beginning of a team or organization, when the group is comprised of two or ten, controls are easy. Simple, informal rules established and enforced by the team. These early controls include things like the 10:00 meeting means that everyone is in the conference room getting coffee and danish but don’t have to be in their seats until 10:15, or if you make a mess in the microwave clean your mess, or how expenses will be reimburse, and every other such thing. As an organization grows, it needs to formalize rules so new employees understand the time they are expected to show up, understand how to receive reimbursement for the sales trip they took last week, and everyone understands the process to approve expenditures.

When people think about controls, they focus on those created by the organization to help things run smoothly. There are other controls we may not think about until they are violated. For example labor laws establish minimum wages, safety standards, and rules for paying taxes. Various government regulations require businesses to comply with environmental rules, advertising, and interactions regarding doing business in other countries. One of the least thought about controls are imposed by insurance companies. Those controls require organization engage or refrain from engaging in certain practices in order for coverage to be in effect. If the organization violates the terms of coverage, their insurance company will not cover loses.

Generally control are those rules, laws and regulations that ensure resources are conserved for use as long as possible. They are created by the organization and establish norms for behavior, the government in forms of laws and regulations, insurance companies, and other sources that limit individual and organization behaviors. There are certainly more sources of controls. These few paragraphs are just a sample of common sources of controls.

Organizing

Organizing involves more than establishing a quality filing system. It means developing processes to accomplish things; groups, teams, divisions, and other such operating groups; establishing priorities of work; organizational hierarchy, and things like that. Organizing includes establishing spans of control, supervisory authority, and developing operating principals. Additionally, there is also the responsibility to establish a process to file important documents, track orders and sales, ensure employees and bills are paid, and establishing means to track contact information for everyone working for and with the organization. Spans of control and authority relationships determine the structure of the organization by how the branches of the organization interact and who answers to whom. Various controls may impact how organizations are organized.

Organizing is important because the established reporting chain, controls, principals, and groups know how to operate. The organizational organization is like a computer’s operating system. It tells those who interact with the organization what to do, how to do it, when to do it, who is responsible for it, and who pays for it. It also establishes standards for success. Without organization, your organization is only a mob!

Planning

Planning, organizing, and resourcing are an important leadership skill regardless of the size of your operation.
The National Guard Collection – Unattributed military photographer

Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as saying, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (azquotes.com). The reason plans them selves have little value is that even the best plan rare work as planned. So one has to if plans are worthless why is planning so important? A good planning process allows leaders to learn things and think their way through problems to find good solutions. Normally more than one person creates an organizational plan. As a result leaders in different parts of the organization come together and work to identify a wide variety of solutions to a perceived future problem. More people mean more ideas and points of view. That means the big leader has more options to chose.

The planning process also helps develop cross function relationships. All to often logistics guys hang with logistics guys, the people in HR only hang with other HR professionals, and the folks executing the work are separated from those who plan the work. These cross function relationships help organizations respond faster in crisis so even on short notice they develop responses to crises faster and better than organizations that lack cross functional relationships.

Another benefit of planning is that more people know about the expected reactions when the plan is triggered by an event. None of the people know all the details about the whole plan but enough people know enough details of the plan they start action sooner which provides time to take stock of the situation as it develops. Instead of trying to figure out how to react, junior leaders take the first steps detailed in the plan which allows senior leaders time to evaluate the situation. The evaluation period serves as a buffer for the planners to determine if what they planned is effective, if they need to make little tweaks and course corrections, or scrape the plan because it does not match the facts on the ground and this is where those previous planning sessions come in handy. An earlier rejected idea might be the solution to the event as it unfolds. Because the planning team spent some time evaluating that solution it is faster and easier to flush out the details on the fly.

Execution

Execution is an often overlooked aspect of management. In my management studies over many years I do not recall it appearing in a single textbook. You can do all the planning, controlling, resourcing, and organizing you want but if no one does anything it is worthless. People come together to develop teams and organizations to accomplish something. The operations process is how those things happen. Execution is the actual implementation of all those other management skills under the watchful eye of a skilled leader who understands how to tweak here and there to make things happen.

If you go to YouTube and search for Aikido you will find more videos than you could watch in a lifetime about the martial art. After you watch a few you may be able to execute a few of the techniques. You may experiment with some of your friends and find that sometimes a tactic works on one but not another. This is the operating process minus the qualified leader.

When I was learning Aikido I frequently was in situations where something seemed to work on one person but not another. Sense would walk by and move my thumb ½ an inch on ukie’s arm or kick one of my feet a couple inches forward and unkie would crumble. Sense is a qualified leader who understands the deeper principals of the process. She understands how those small adjustments affect the technique in more situations than the novice. Sense doesn’t just stand at the front of the mat and challenge students. Sense walks among the students providing guidance in their practice which in turn allows them to operate more effectively.

Even though execution is overlooked in the business world, it is studied in military circles. It is true that textbooks do not cover this important aspect of management but the military has written many manuals over the years on executing. They describe processes for selecting leaders, training troops and leaders, gathering required resources, planning for contingencies, and accomplishing missions. Execution is where thing happen. Without execution there is no need for the other management functions.

Resourcing

There is an old saying to the affect of, “We the willing, led by the unqualified are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We accomplished so much for so long and so little that we are capable of doing anything with nothing.” Too often in too many workplaces this cute quote is reality. If you do not plan for and provide resources as a leader and you hire qualified people, they will find ways to make things happen but eventually they will leave.

Resources are important to accomplish things in the same way plants need water to thrive.
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Several years ago a group of community leaders came together and established a small nonprofit to fill a need. They developed a plan to create a safe place for crime victims to meet with investigators. In the beginning there was a need for lots of stuff and the Board of Directors worked with the staff for find lots of funding. After the first couple of years, the Board started cutting budgets not because they no longer thought the program was important, rather because all the BIG stuff was purchased. They survived on grants that provided enough resources to operate the program but did no additional fundraising. The leaders of this organization missed an important resourcing requirement, planned replacement of the big stuff. After about five years, the CEO retired. The Board hired a new CEO who found in his first two years that many of the big ticket items the program relied upon to deliver services were reaching the end of their usable life. As a result, the new CEO developed a plan to not only replace the aging equipment, but also a plan to to diversify funding streams to ensure the organization had a cash cushion for future emergencies. Part of the replacement plan included a schedule to replace expensive equipment just before its projected end-of-life. As a result, on those occasion when something did die early, the organization had funds set aside to make an early replacement. However, as the replacement schedule matured, premature equipment failures lessened and allowed the program to better serve its clients.

Resourcing involves more than just the big stuff. It includes annual budget, staff, systems of communication, work space, all the way down to staples and paperclips. You can tell the real values of an organization by the way it budgets and spends money. Compare the one that sends all its C-level people to an annual event and another that sends at least 50% of it workforce to off-site trainings annually. Which one values people more? Amazon is good example of this as they built their delivery services over the last few years. They wanted better control of how and when products were delivered to ensure customers returned to Amazon for future needs. That action shows they value rapid delivery of products. If Amazon just talked about quick delivery but never put any money behind developing a reliable delivery network, people who value quick delivery would look for a company that does deliver quickly. That is why resourcing is important.

Have the courage to stand up front and lead. Understand that also means you have to manage.
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Being a good leader means one also needs to learn to manage. There are many aspects to leadership beyond standing up in front of your group and giving them a pep speech. As a leader you do need to develop the skills necessary to influence people to accomplish your organization’s mission. You cannot do that however with out a clear idea about what needs to happen, how to measure performance and effectiveness ensuring progress, what the next steps are to move forward, execute plans, and ensure you and your people have the things they need to do their work. Simple words to help remember all these things are Controlling, Organizing, Leading, Planning, Executing, and Planning (COLPER). Hannibal would never have successfully invaded Rome, Vanderbilt would have laid much less rail, and we would still think Apples are something to eat had Jobs, and the others, not understood how to manage things while leading their people. It is not necessary for every leader to be skill in each of these areas. Those just mentioned surrounded themselves with smart people in each of these areas. Like it or not, leaders also manage the talent of their people as part of their leading ability. Take a look at each of these areas in your leadership practice. Identify those things you can build upon and find others to fill in your voids. It is important for you to be a good leader to also be a good manager.

References

AZ Quotes (ND). Dwight D. Eisenhower quotes about planning.https://www.azquotes.com/author/4403-Dwight_D_Eisenhower/tag/planning Retrieved 11/15/20

Hilgert R, Leonard Jr E, Haimann T, (1995) Supervision concepts and practices of management. South-Western College Publishing. Cincinnati, OH.

Kinicki A, Williams B, (3rd ED, 2008) Management a practical introduction. McGraw-Hill Irwin. Boston, MA.

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