Leading from Within
A colleague of mine recently came to me distressed and anxious about a new role he was being asked to fulfill on a relatively new work team. The New Year brought on new goals, for himself and the young team. He was nervous; not about whether he could meet the demands of the new role—a position he has had high performance in for quite sometime within the organization—but rather he was discouraged that they did not ask him to manage the new work team.
“I never knew you wanted to be a manager, Jon” I expressed surprise in his disappointment.
“I don’t really,” he explained. “I like what I’m doing and I believe I do it pretty well, but you think I’d be asked to manage the team, given all of my experience in this role.”
“But you just said yourself that you don’t want to manage people. It would probably stifle your creativity if you had to be burdened with the details that come with management.”
Jon shook his head in discouragement, unable to pinpoint the source of his anxiety over the new dynamics of his team.
“The real issue?” he scoffed.
“Yeah, why are you so disappointed when you will still be doing what you’ve always done, perhaps even better with a new manager,” I tried to draw him out.
Then Jon poured out his emotions over the unsettled dynamics of the team and how they weren’t properly chartered and even potentially set up for failure. The new manager seemed nice enough, and was a good people person, but she didn’t know anything about the skill sets required by the individuals performing the daily duties of this work team.
“I’m the real leader of this team. I’m the one who has to meet with the client up front, get real clear on what they are asking for,” Jon offered a passionate plea. “And I’m the one that has to face the client when the rear their angry head when the job isn’t done exactly the way the want!” he added with exclamation.
Ahhhhh! There it is! A common misperception in workplaces all around the world. Managers aren’t always leaders, and leaders aren’t always managers. The business literature of the 80s and 90s, before the digital age dramatically changed the face of the workplace, often preached management and leadership as synonymous with one another. And to a degree, they still are. A manager needs to develop good leadership skills. Filling out monthly or annual reviews is one thing, getting down to the heart of the matter and drawing people’s potential and passion out of them is another.
On the other hand, there are organizations around the world that are full of great leaders as individual contributors and within teams—great managers of self—that know exactly what they are doing and how to make the team and the organization more efficient. These are individuals that don’t need to sit behind a title or be in a traditional position of power to make a significant contribution to the organization.
“Jon, that’s just it. You are the leader of this team. In fact, it seems that you have a team full of great Self Leaders. You don’t need a title to make yourself or your team more efficient. There is no secret to it.”
He shook his head in suspended agreement, until the light of reason brought a smile of revelation to his face.
“Leadership is an attitude, not a position,” he surmised like only a blossoming leader could.