December 2015: Executive Insights

Are you a manager, a leader or both?

Columnist Bill Murray

Bill Murray

According to Stephen Covey, management is a bottom line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish?

To help people understand the differences between the two, Covey describes a group of people cutting their way through a jungle. The workers are busy swinging their machetes and clearing the way. The managers are behind the workers “sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedures manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for the machete wielders.” The managers are focused on getting through the jungle.

The leader in the group is wondering whether they’re moving in the right direction and decides to climb a tree to check. Once above the fray, the leader discovers his team is moving in the wrong direction and they need to adjust their course.

We like this example because it demonstrates in a way we can all relate to that organizations need both leaders and managers, and that the ideal executive possesses skills in both areas. It’s obviously important to whack away at the jungle using the best tools and techniques available, but it’s equally important to be checking your direction if you don’t want to be lost and eventually consumed by the jungle you’re committed to conquering.

So as you think about your skills and improving your performance as both a manager and a leader what are some things to consider? Many books have been written defining the attributes of managers and leaders. The few that we’ll mention is not intended to be a complete listing. Our hope is that the examples we share will prompt you to reflect on your skills and personal development opportunities which will improve the overall performance of your organization.

Reg Carter

Reg Carter

Management is about planning, goal setting and defining the actions to achieve, along with measuring progress and making any necessary adjustments. There is continual emphasis on improving efficiencies, quality and customer service. Essentially, you are working to continually renew and improve what you’re doing — most often in an incremental way. These are all worthy endeavors and an essential part of any business that hopes to sustain itself.

Leadership is more about visioning, scanning and motivation. Visioning articulates the hopes and dreams of the organization and is aspirational. The leader reminds the organization of what they’re trying to build, and focuses on the organization’s future. Scanning relates to constantly surveying the opportunities and threats a business should always be considering whether it’s a new product or service, a new competitor or a technology that could provide competitive advantage. Motivation is about capturing “the hearts and minds” of every person in your organization, and is arguably the most significant differentiator in any company.

It is now widely accepted that a business will not survive if it is run by managers or leaders alone. The combination of both is needed to sustain (management) and grow (leadership) any business.

Happy Holidays and all the best in the new year.

Reg Carter & Bill Murray are executives with CITEC Business Solutions, a Canton-based nonprofit economic development consulting organization, with more than 60 years of business and management experience between them. Their column appears quarterly in NNY Business.