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Why Management and Leadership

In our experience, relatively few managers and leaders have ever had a course on management or leadership. Few universities offer such classes, unless you happen to have been a management major or have attended an MBA program with a management curriculum. Given the lack of management and leadership courses in our universities, most people learn how to manage and how to lead informally: you watch what others do in peer positions and positions of greater responsibility and you decide what works and what doesn't. Over time, we start to develop our own "toolboxes" and add tools from our professional readings or discard tools as they age and become less relevant to our younger generations of employees. This general "life as a lab" approach is how we've developed managers for years and, although it has its benefits, it is unfortunate that the two areas don't get better treatment in structured curriculums within universities and within larger corporations.

Management and leadership either multiply or detract from your ability to scale organizations in growth environments. They are often spoken of within the same context, but they are really two very different disciplines with very different impact on scalability. Many times, the same person will perform both the functions of a leader and a manager. In most organizations, one will progress from a position of an individual contributor into a primarily management focused role; and over time with future promotions, that person will take on increasing leadership responsibilities.

In general and at a very high level, you can think of management activities as "pushing" activities and leadership as "pulling" activities. Leadership sets a destination and "waypoints" toward that destination; management gets you to that destination. Leadership would be stating "We will never have a scalability related downtime in our systems" and management would be ensuring that it never happens. You absolutely need both and if you are going to scale your organization, your processes, and your systems well and cost effectively, you need to do both well.

Far too often, we get caught up in the notion of a "management style." We might believe that a person's "management style" makes them more of a leader or more of a manager. This notion of style is our perception of an individual's bias toward the tasks that define either leadership or management. We might believe that a person is more operationally focused and is therefore more of a "manager" or more visionary and therefore more of a "leader." Although we all have a set of personality traits and skills that likely make us more comfortable or more capable with one set of activities over the other, there is no reason we can't get better at both disciplines. Recognizing that they are two distinct disciplines is a step toward isolating and developing both our management and leadership capabilities to the benefit of our shareholders.

As we have indicated, management is about "pushing." Management is about ensuring that people are assigned to the appropriate tasks and that those tasks are completed within the specified time interval and at an appropriate cost. Management is about setting individual contributor goals along the path to the greater leadership goals and helping a team to accomplish both the individual contributor and team goals. It is also about ensuring that people get performance-oriented feedback in a timely manner and that the feedback includes both praise for great performance and information regarding what they can improve. Management is about measuring and improving everything that ultimately creates shareholder value, examples of which are reducing the cost to perform an activity or increasing the throughput of an activity at the same cost. Management is communicating status early and often and clearly identifying what is on track and where help is needed. Management activities also include removing obstacles or helping the team over or around obstacles where they occur on the path to an objective. Management is important to scale as it is how you get the most out of an organization, thereby reducing cost per unit of work performed. The definition of how something is to be performed is a management responsibility and how something is performed absolutely impacts the scale of organizations, processes, and systems.

Management as it relates to people is about the practice of ensuring that we have the right person in the right job at the right time with the right behaviors. From an organizational perspective, it is about ensuring that the team operates well together and has the proper mix of skills and experiences to be successful. Management as applied to an organization's work is about ensuring that projects are on budget, on time, and meeting the expected results upon which their selection was predicated. Management means measurement and a failure to measure is a failure to manage. Failing to manage in turn is a guarantee to miss your organizational, process, and systems scalability objectives as without management, no one is ensuring that you are doing the things you need to do in the timeframe required.

Leadership has to do with all the pulling activities necessary to be successful in any endeavor. If management is the act of pushing an organization up a hill, leadership is the selection of that hill and then being first up it to encourage your organization to follow. Leadership is about inspiring people and organizations to do better and hopefully great things. Leadership is creating a vision that drives people to do the right thing for the company. Leadership is creating a mission that helps codify the aforementioned vision and creating a causal mental roadmap that helps employees understand how what they do creates value for the shareholder. Finally, leadership is about the definition of the goals on the way to an objective. Leadership is important to scale as it not only sets the direction (mission) and destination (vision) but it inspires people and organizations to achieve that destination.

Any initiative lacking leadership (including initiatives meant to increase the scalability of your company), while not doomed to certain failure, will likely only achieve success through pure dumb luck and chance. Great leaders create a culture focused on ensuring success through highly scalable organizations, processes, and products. This culture is supported by incentives structured around ensuring that the company scales cost effectively without user perceived quality of service or availability issues.

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