For many years, I have enjoyed helping others understand the difference between leadership and management by defining the terms and then opening up a dialogue around individual perspectives. Although eye opening for those who think of them as the same, it is still very cerebral and certainly not enough.
Since my book, The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable, hit the bookshelves I have been using its key characters to deepen the dialogue and help others understand why they feel the way they do about the two terms. My efforts are aimed at helping them also understand why they feel the way they do about those workplace warriors they “must follow” or “willingly join with to fight the good fight.”
Joe, a key character in the book, is a good example of the tough guy “bosses” who “manage” us. As the chief know-it-all, he sees himself as the decider of all things. He tries to pass himself off as an “agent of change”, but just like real Joe’s he is only an “agent of chains”. You have probably worked “for” a Joe during your career because you don’t work “with” the Joe’s. Hopefully, you have not been a Joe for others. By the way, Joe’s can be “Josephine’s” too.
Joe is the kind of manager who uses fear to get what he needs. Sound familiar? The Joe’s of the world obsess with obedience and they demand results from everyone around them except themselves. When it comes to them, they are non-committal to you and take credit for the good stuff while blaming others for their own poor judgment and outcomes. They simply burn you out.
How did the Joe’s become Joe’s? That’s a great question and one that is nearly impossible to answer with individual certainty. But, my experience tells me that most Joe’s become Joe’s from watching and being impacted by other Joe’s. It’s the negative side of modeling the way.
How do they shift their behavior? Unfortunately, many don’t. Since a lot of the Joe’s have read all of the “management” books, they usually are very good at bluffing their way through conversations and interviews. With that skill, they just move from organization to organization inflicting their pain until it’s time to move again. If they are the CEO of a company…watch out below. The values that are pasted to the walls are only window dressing for the halls.
For those who do shift behavior it usually comes from a humbling event or perhaps two or three. They finally hit bottom as Joe does in my book and see the error of their ways. It’s usually a long road, but with proper coaching and an instrument such as the Leadership Practices Inventory it’s possible to resuscitate an ailing Joe career. I have been fortunate to be a part of that success from time-to-time.
If they are lucky enough to find themselves being coached or lead by a Sam, the guru in The Offsite, the world becomes a friendlier place. Sam teaches all of us the difference between “managing” people and “leading” people. While the Joe’s burn us out, the Sam’s fuel our fire. They collaborate with us; engage us with questions that result in learning; express confidence in our abilities; give credit where credit is due and get the best from us by offering commitment to our growth.
The Sam’s teach us that management is about things and that leadership is about people. They want people to join with us not joke about us. The Sam’s share with us that leadership is a choice we all can make. It’s about closing the gap between our beliefs and our behaviors. Real leadership is a way of life and it begins with discovering who you are and what matters to you.
Whether you are “managed” by a Joe or “led” by a Sam tell me your story so I can share it with my readers.
Posted by Robert Thompson, The Leadership Challenge Workshop Master Facilitator