Management involves the skilful exercise of formal authority derived from appointment to a position of power. Leadership, on the other hand, rests on the ability to influence people, often through commitment to a worthy aim. Managers are appointed, ...
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Managers are chosen; leaders emerge and more...

Managers are chosen; leaders emerge

Management involves the skilful exercise of formal authority derived from appointment to a position of power. Leadership, on the other hand, rests on the ability to influence people, often through commitment to a worthy aim.


Managers are appointed, leaders choose themselves, at least at first.

Of course, good leaders are quite likely to be selected for management positions, and managers may well find greater passion for the work and so become more effective leaders. Ability to both manage and lead may well be found in the one person.

But still…

If we want to find leaders in our organisation, we need to create the circumstances in which they can emerge—usually through working on change with a group of people.

Several times recently, in being with organisations where future leaders have emerged that no-one expected, I have learned that, whilst we can notice management ability, we just don’t know who the leaders might be. They only appear when they care enough about an issue that’s been placed in front of them—when it touches their heart.

So it may be a good idea to make problems and opportunities visible and not worry over much about having the answers or organising everybody.

To paraphrase Parker J Palmer… the emerging leader (which means the soul), “is like a wild animal, tough, resilient, and yet shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul (the emerging leader) may appear.”

Managers are chosen; leaders emerge. We do well to create the right circumstances.


Closing the gaps

Up and coming managers and leaders need to see the gaps in their approach. In the old saying, what got them where they are today won’t get them where they need to be tomorrow. In fact, they might even need to unlearn some things that have seemed central to their way of working.

Four people in conversation

We may well need to help them see where they are falling short; where their current approach isn’t going to be enough. No doubt we can prove to them that they don’t have some of the knowledge or skill they need.

But some care is required…

If we demonstrate a learning need without moving quickly on to show a feasible way forward — the beginnings of a solution — the person is liable to reject the need to learn rather than accept it and act on it.

We all tend to avoid the discomfort of accepting a shortfall if we can’t see how we might be able to close the gap. Our egos won’t let us go there. That’s just part of being human. We need to feel safe.

So, yes, show people what they are missing, but show them how to close the gap too.

Make sure you have a good idea how that might happen before you start — if you want to avoid resistance.

Gaps pull us forward but only if we believe we can cross them. Otherwise we may pretend they aren’t there.


Managing distractions

…especially significant ones we care about.

High Street scene

Last year, I allowed too much of my capacity, especially my reading capacity, to be taken up following the news—hoping for some signs of sense prevailing, especially in Britain and America, frankly. Sense in these contexts is a matter of opinion and values, of course.

I know what I think is right. You may well differ.

Anyway, the point is I can’t influence these troubling events, and I’m guessing, neither can you.

So how to detach our attention from them, and focus properly on things where our energies actually can make a difference? How to stay focused on what we want to achieve through our own efforts, as opposed to what we hope may transpire? How to make sure we are fully present for our families, friends, and colleagues? And at the same time stay connected with big events?

Some say it’s good more people are engaged in political issues. Up to a point I agree, but not if it means we neglect what we can actually make a difference to. In the end, our potential to transform our own affairs can most likely overcome the consequences of national upheaval—if we stay focused.

If our country is going to be in a mess, that’s bad enough—and maybe we can learn leadership lessons from politicians’ errors—but best not to compound the problem by undermining our own work. Then we’ll suffer twofold.

As with many things, being aware of the issue is at least half the solution. The rest of the answer may be detaching emotionally from what we can’t do anything about, at least when we should be doing something else.

What’s your key to managing significant distractions?

Best wishes for 2019!


Wasting energy?

Three senior managersWe all like a bit of freedom—the chance to act on our own initiative. Much of the time that’s a good thing.

Recently, however, I’ve been noticing just how much energy can be wasted if everyone is pulling in different directions in an organisation, even if they’re acting with the best of intentions. The result can be a feeling of overload and not having enough resource. In reality, lots of energy is getting wasted in unaligned, incoherent activity, much of which cancels out.

Yes, the organisation may be short of resource—quite likely it is…

Or maybe it has enough resource, if its participants would agree to a little more alignment in what they do—to sacrifice a little autonomy in the interests of a sensible workload.

An important role for leaders then to stimulate a shared sense of purpose that leads to coherent, aligned activity.

Perhaps that means you.


Learning or doing, which is the priority?

Woman thinkingWe need to keep learning e.g. about people; and we need to keep doing or delivering e.g. in a business. So which is more important? Delivering perhaps (it’s certainly likely to be more urgent), but what if the delivery is weak because we haven’t yet learned some vitally relevant information?

If learning is the priority then perhaps the opportunity or expectation will pass before we have made ourselves ready.

Obviously, it’s a balance. Do you have it in the right place? Could you benefit from moving learning up a bit?

Sometimes, of course, we need to act in order to learn: We can’t merely think our way to the right solution. We need to gather some experience of the issue. We need to attempt delivery and see what happens.

Which is more likely to make a long-term, sustainable difference: Learning or delivering? Probably learning, I’d say.

How do you balance this out?


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