In June, 2009 we started taking a sharp look at the distinctions between manager and leader. I developed a 20-question online survey (“Are you more of a manager or leader?”) that's so far received 139 responses. Given the volume of info, I broke my analysis into several blog posts that cover all 20 questions. Previous posts had analyzed the results of questions 1 through 10, which I've consolidated here, and this post adds on the responses to questions 11 through 20.
What follows is each question as asked on the survey, the responses by percentage for each answer to that question, and, highlighted in yellow, my opinion of the response that best reflects a high-performing leadership approach. Finally, you’ll see my own commentary on the leadership theme(s) associated with each question, and a few suggestions for further reading on that topic.
What most surprised me going through the data were the results on questions 17 and 18. I explained why these surprised me in the discussion below.
I invite you to read through them, reflect on them, discuss them, pass them along, comment here on the blog, and/or email me.
1. When delegating work to my folks, I prefer to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it.
Leadership Theme(s): Effective Delegation—allowing people to decide for themselves the best approach, which maximizes a leader’s time and effort by getting the most and best from their people. More reading on this:
Leadership Theme(s): Authoritarian leaders—those who don’t ask, listen, and learn, believing they are meant to have the answers and be “in control”—tend to be blindsided by their people, clients, and outcomes, and to fail over time. More reading on this:
Leadership Theme(s): Developing and communicating a simple, shared vision is necessary to help people and an organization head in the right direction, to check progress along the way, and to achieve great results. More reading on this:
Leadership Theme(s): A leader’s high standards, if taken too far, become “perfectionism,” which makes them ineffective at getting the most from their human resources and organizational systems. More reading on this:
Leadership Theme(s): Candor, Relating Skills, Approachability. Leader’s who are able to develop open and caring relationship with their people enable them to be honest about what’s truly going on, and therefore to make better decisions. More reading on this:
6. I spend the majority of my time on day to day tasks, versus on developing the road ahead.
Leadership Theme(s): Temporal framework for a leader, barring temporary need, is primarily to be looking from the present to the future. A manager's time frame is the present. If a leader spends the majority of their time on the day to day tasks, they are acting as a manager. More reading on this:
7. A leader needs to avoid showing vulnerability to his or her people.
Leadership Theme(s): Leaders understand that sharing their vulnerability and humanity with others makes them stronger leaders, not weaker. We are wired to be inspired, engaged, and want to do our best work with someone who is "real" and not shielded or phony. More reading on this:
8. My primary role is to be of service to our clients/customers, those I lead, and the communities we serve.
Leadership Theme(s): Leadership as part of a greater whole. Leadership is being of service to others. Without that, people in authority are opportunists, narcissists, or both. Much of the financial meltdown of late 2008 was the logical end result of leaders failing to care about and understand their impact on others. More reading on this:
9. In my heart of hearts, I believe that successes are more attributable to my own leadership than to the efforts of those I lead.
Leadership Theme(s): Humility. Research about great-performing organizations over long periods of time shows that the leaders are humble. More reading on this:
10. I tend to say what must be said, even if it's uncomfortable for others.
Leadership Theme(s): Courageous authenticity. Leaders must face things as they are, and say what must be said. More reading on this:
11. I tend to stay true to my values, even when that means sacrificing our results.
Leadership Theme(s): Excellent leadership requires one to walk the talk of one’s values. To do so means being in integrity, something which others look to their leaders to display, and inspires them to then do their best work. More reading on this:
Leadership and Integrity
Remove Your Mask
12. I'm always too busy to take time to reflect on how things are going and what lessons are being learned.
Leadership Theme(s): As important as it is to work IN your business, so it is important for a leader to step outside the “do-loop” and work ON your business. Key to this is the need for continuous learning / continuous improvement. More reading on this:
Being of Service
What is Self-aware Leadership, and Why Should You Care?
13. I tend to lose my composure more often than I'd like.
Leadership Theme(s): Emotion and passion can inform leadership--when directed constructively. Anger and frustration are human emotions from which leaders are not and should not be exempt. Feeling your feelings, and learning from them are critical practices when done in appropriately. More reading on this:
Self-aware Leadership Watch: Stand in the River of Your Feelings
14. Secretly I tend to feel like a fraud -- like if they find me out, they'll realize how little I know about what I'm doing.
Leadership Theme(s): Perfectionism and high standards, as applied to self. It’s critical for a leader, over time, to learn to value themselves for their accomplishments, contributions, and insights. People in positions of leadership that experience “Impostor Syndrome” tend to have low self-regard when it comes for their own abilities. More reading on this:
Leadership and Self-doubt
The Impostor Syndrome by John Graden
15. I consistently keep a healthy balance between working, resting, and my life outside of work.
Leadership Theme(s): Work and life outside of work are mutually-enhancing. Leaders that don’t understand this tend to burn out, and/or to burn out their people over time. More reading on this:
Balance: Mind, Body, Heart
Responsibility to Rest
16. My people have told me that I'm a strong coach / mentor to them.
Leadership Theme(s): Leader as coach / mentor. When leaders understand the distinction between feedback and coaching, and learn how to use challenges, questions, and support to turn talent into outcomes, they make their workforce far more effective: independently able to do their best, rather than rely on the leader for answers and direction. More reading on this:
New Hope for the Directive Manager
You’re Paying People Too Much to be Telling Them What to do
17. When it's a question of maintaining a working relationship or getting the job done, I'm going to get the job done.
Leadership Theme(s): Balancing task and relationships. A leader’s ability to form caring relationships in the workplace is highly correlated with business results. I have to admit being shocked at how many leaders responding to this question would jettison a relationship to get something done. It’s excellent developmental material, considering how important relationships are to sustainable achievement over time. More reading on this:
Making Tasks Too Important
Relating and Results
18. I see a key part of my job as motivating my people, and making sure they feel good.
Leadership Theme(s): Leaders hire and retain self-motivated people. I rely on the findings of Jim Collins in his work “Good to Great” on this, which means that (shockingly) 82% of the leaders answering the survey have a lower-performing belief about their role in relation to their people. Jim found in his exhaustive five-year study of consistently high-performing companies that leaders of those companies don’t spend a minute on motivating their people. He said, “The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.” Great leaders select self-motivated people and try NOT to de-motivate them. More reading on this:
A Leader’s People Standards
Leaders Need More Quality Time With Workers
19. When I don't know the answer, I don't let others know it.
Leadership Theme(s): Vulnerability. Given the high percentage of high-performing responses on this, I’m glad this is understood. Just for reinforcement, here’s more reading on this:
Leadership and Being in a Beginner’s Mind
20. The more years of leadership I have under my belt, the more I know about leadership.
Leadership Theme(s): Continuously Learning Leaders / Humility. The higher-performing belief here, in my view, is “The more I think I know, the more I have to learn.” That said, I admit my question can be interpreted to be one of competency related to experience, and it’s true that if you have the intellect, the more you do something, the more you are likely to know about it. As a result, the responses to this vague question don’t say as much as I would have liked, and that was my own error.