In the past couple of weeks I have experienced issues with mentoring clients all of whom are excellent leaders and are having problems in managing managers.
It can be in both directions: upwards and downwards. For example in one case my client runs a very large and successful section of a business which has recently lost its overall leader. The replacement turns out to be an individual who works absolutely “by the book” with virtually no exceptions.
There seems to be no attempt at flexibility, no consideration of alternative routes, no desire to depart from the rules and regulations. The consequence is that there is now an imbalance in the relationship, a difficulty in understanding each other’s way of doing business and consequently a potential breakdown in communication.
This is perhaps an extreme example but it does emphasis the essential difference between the entrepreneurial leader and the professional manager.
US Vistage speaker, Walt Sutton, says that very few managers per se transfer to being entrepreneurial leaders simply because they feel left out of the day to day which historically had been their preferred milieu.
Some people are far more comfortable in ensuring that they do the right things, that is, as managers, rather than doing things right which should be the objective of all good leaders.
It is equally rare for entrepreneurial leaders to become good managers. They may well try and often will want to leap into a situation to sort it out which can lead to minor chaos and lots of toes being trodden on.
The fact is that most leaders can become managers but generally they are far less efficient and consequently far less effective than the professionals.
Walt Sutton says that the great unifying principle of this paradox is that great leaders accept, understand and nourish good managers but do not attempt to become one.
The fact is that the best working model includes both leaders and managers, and better still, great teams, operating in a symbiotic relationship
The most successful entrepreneurs are usually world class leaders but it must be emphasised that they do not “do the work”. The work is done by equally talented and committed managers and teams who know the ultimate objectives of the business and who are able to develop and adjust processes and procedures to help get there.
It is the leader who will be flexible, who says “Get on with it and we’ll sport the paperwork out afterwards” which usually gives pain to the professional manager. The leader needs to be sparing in flexibility but employ it to the best extent when it is really necessary.
Otherwise, the leader should let the managers get on with running the business and do what great leaders do best; bring in change, help people accept and understand the need for change, drive towards understood and accepted objectives for the business and overall, create a culture in which people will feel wanted, needed and valued.
Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.
Email me for a discussion via email@example.com