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Leadership And Latin

By Gary Rich on Mar. 27, 2012 in Leadership Bites


First a quick definition: managing and leading are not the same.  Managing is creating the infrastructure (systems and processes) to achieve organizational objectives. Leading is using one’s self as a catalyst for achieving organizational objectives.  Both are important to a company’s success.

Most successful executives start to differentiate themselves from the herd early in their careers by managing very effectively. It requires competence with the technical aspects of the business they operate in. Often the better we are at managing, the more frequently we are promoted and the more we are given to manage. Then comes that magical moment. The transition point where our ability to manage becomes less crucial and our ability to lead becomes the main thing.

So what?

Well, we spend many years practicing our management skills but virtually no time honing our leadership skills. We are then asked to lead, sometimes overnight, without the preparation and skills that are really needed.  Leading is about getting people/organizations to move in the direction set by the leader, in accordance with a specific set of values.  No matter how many cases you read in B-school about doing this, you can’t learn it in a lecture hall.

Sometimes an organization is well managed, meaning the systems, processes, product or service positioning, pricing and quality are all well-designed, but people just can’t seem to make them work to deliver acceptable results.  Interestingly, all of the management skills in the world won’t close this gap.  Why?  Because applying more “management” is using the wrong tool for the job. Applying different leadership techniques is what’s called for. Not an easy task.

To lead effectively we must understand human beings. We have to understand ourselves and the people surrounding us. It requires self-awareness and self-insight as well as insight into others. This requires an intellectual framework for human behavior and years of experience putting flesh on the bones of that framework.

How do we get that?

It starts with a framework. Ever notice how people that studied Latin have a facility with language? It’s because Latin provides a framework.  Frameworks help us learn. An academic framework in human behavior creates a structure for us to interpret the behavior we observe in others and ourselves.

I recommend that leaders educate themselves on the basics of human behavior. Take some of the time you spend reading business books and read books on psychology. Replace the technology seminar you are planning to attend with a leadership seminar. Install as many feedback mechanisms for your employees as you do for your customers. Spend as much time understanding your own team as you do your biggest sales prospects. Spend time figuring out what everyone else knows about you that you’re unaware of.

The net result will be better leadership and a sure fire way to put your well-designed management processes to work.


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