Leadership vs. Bossing

To make and keep any organization successful requires Leadership: ask any successful organization’s top people, from the Air Force to General Electric to McDonald’s. Leadership is the ability to get the right people on the bus and into the right responsibilities so the organization is coordinated and effective. As John Maxwell wrote in Developing the Leader Within You: Leadership is INFLUENCE.

Maxwell sees five levels of personal and professional growth in management, or rather organizational leadership.

  1. Position — the manager effects compliance strictly by virtue of his or her job title — by rank. “People follow you”, writes Maxwell, “because they have to.” Managers who stay on this level too long poison the organization. This person causes high turnover and low morale.
  2. Permission — the manager effects compliance with the willing consent of the team. In Maxwell’s words “People follow you because they want to. People will follow you beyond your stated authority. This level allows work to be fun.”  This is a good business person, provided he or she continues to grow: if they do not grow then any highly motivated direct reports will become restless.
  3. Production — the manager is actually leading by example. “People follow you” says Maxwell, “because of what you have done for the organization.” Here the manager has momentum — and some feel they have finally “arrived”. People like you and what you are doing. Problems get fixed quickly and with little effort because of your momentum.
  4. People Development — the manager focuses on long-range growth and focuses on developing the people around him or her, not just “controlling” them. Maxwell writes “People will follow because of what you have done for them.” This is the highest that most managers ever rise. A very few will reach the final level:
  5. Personhood — the manager has spent years developing others and helping their organizations without demanding personal gain. His or her clear objective is to make this world a better place for everyone. In Maxwell’s words “People follow because of who you are and what you represent.”

How do you manage? Do you think of yourself by your job title, or by your responsibility? Is the most important thing to you what you can get for yourself, or how you can help others be everything they can be and make this whole world a more productive, better place for everyone to live? Which level manager are you, and where will you be going next?

Learning the Truth by Asking the Heart

I do not editorialize much here because frankly our purpose in having this web site is to help others gain the necessary job skills to become employed, not to stand on a soap box and pontificate. But I will share this today as I feel it is both timely and germane to the employment process. I am the author: judge me as ye will, or choose to not judge.

In my mind’s eye I saw a manager interviewing a man for an entry level management position at his firm. This was a wise manager, and so he would not take his applicants to a good restaurant with good service and wonderful food, rather he knew of a place that had slow service, where the waitstaff were inexperienced and struggling students.

After the meal with casual and apparently unimportant conversation, the manager, of course, paid for the food. The custom then is that the applicant, since he did not pay for the meal, would leave the tip. And this, dear reader, would tell the manager what he truly wanted to know.

The applicant was upset with the meal: the service was slow, the food was average and too cold for his liking, his water glass had not been kept full, and a sporting event was blaring behind him on a TV. So he left a note expressing his disappointment with only two pennies for his tip. He considered himself so just: so wise: surely this employer would be impressed with his business savvy.

“Now” asked the manager, “why did you choose that particular method and amount for your tip?”

“Well” answered the applicant “If they can’t see that I’m giving up my time and money to spend it in their restaurant – especially if I ask them to turn off an idiot box showing idiots with sticks chasing a rock, aka: hockey – when no one else is in the place, then they don’t deserve my gratuity.”

“Ah” invoked the wise manager, “A very just and truthful assessment of the near-term business situation.”

The applicant smiled, thinking this to be agreement with his decision and near kin to an offer for employment.

The wise and experienced manager continued. “I have managed men for many years, and learned that most will tell only so much truth as they wish me to know. The best way to learn what is in a man is to observe him.”

The applicant smiled, considering himself so wise as to have earned an explanation from his superior. But the wise manager continued without smiling, a hint of regret in his eyes.

“By statistics that girl was probably a single mom that works two jobs to keep her baby sheltered. She may not have slept that night doing two shifts back to back. She probably has $40,000 in school loans to pay as well as rent and food and insurance and gas and maybe medical bills. She may even be struggling every day with an addiction — struggling to stay clean and drug free in the midst of impossible life conditions she feels that she has no hope of ever resolving. She may even be one of our Warriors, recently returned from in-country deployment, who didn’t fit in when she got back, got no help from the government — mentally, physically, or financially, and is now divorced as well — the divorce rate for such Warriors is around 50%.”

The young applicant’s countenance fell. He could not tell what this could mean.

“Yes, brutalizing someone like that is reprehensible. A person who is so wrapped up in themselves that they think only of themselves is not someone to be trusted in business or personal relationships because once they think you are no longer useful they will turn on you too.”

A look of horror faded onto the applicant’s face as he began to understand the importance of this explanation.

“I am sorry, Sir, but in our business we work for long term value — for generations, not for minutes. Business such as ours are solid and steadily growing for centuries and we seek first  people who we can trust, because we know that once we have found a person worthy of our trust we can train that person to do anything necessary: but we can never teach someone to value the big picture or to think in terms of others instead of merely himself.”

The wise manager paused, then stood, smiled weakly, and extended his hand in a farewell dismissal “I am sorry, Sir, but your view and that of our firm are diametrically opposed. I wish you the best. Good day.”

You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat others who can do nothing for them.