Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Are you a manager, a leader or both?

The best answer is both. In a competitive environment we live in, today leaders must engage in two very distinct sets of activities; a set in leadership and a set in management. Each set of activities requires its own skills and abilities. There is art and science involved in management and in leadership.

First, let’s look at the sets of activities in management because it is there that most of us will start at some point in the first third of our careers. Some managers will stay there for all their careers and some will move into leadership. Managers are needed in every business. Great managers master key activities like planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, reporting, controlling and problem solving. Great managers are orderly, predictable and consistent keeping the ship on course. Working for a manager can be very boring especially to those loving interactions with people.

Now, let’s look at the set of activities in leadership where many aspire to master yet few really make the cut. Great leaders master key activities like having their character in motion (integrity plus courage), purpose and meaning, vision, caring for people, taking full responsibility for their results, living the right values by treating everyone with authenticity, dignity and respect. Above all leaders are masters are building relationships mobilizing their stellar character and leveraging the greatness in those around them to produce uncommon results. A great leader’s results come from the sum of thousands of little interactions in their day to day activities. Leadership is all about people skills and managing relationships, the many human interactions. A great leader’s work is not easily seen and defined because it is typically underneath the surface. Thus the reason it is so difficult to define leadership. Great leaders change the course of the ship and the course of history. Working for a leader can be a living nightmare because leadership is mostly about dealing with people and change. Most people don’t like to change. About half of the people are task, not people driven. Leadership is hard work, but the rewards are extremely big. All that is required for leadership can be learned. Great leaders master both sets of activities for management and for leadership.

Great leaders master the skills and abilities required to excel in each set of activities. There are so few true leaders today because it takes both hard and smart work, along with at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a leader. Also, there are so few great leadership mentors living today to help new aspiring leaders. Little is taught in schools about leadership mostly because it is so difficult to define it. Most schools focus on teaching well defined management methods and practices for managers. There are many great books on leadership coming from all different professions. The books offer many ideas and theories for all of us. However, leadership is only learned where the rubber meets the road, in the action battle. The best work of a leader is under the surface, invisible to most of us. Leadership is only achieved by those with enough hunger to change while managing and leading themselves and others. Great leaders harness the greatness in others and that is why great leaders leave great legacies.

Be blessed and a blessing to others
Carlos Fontana, President of Phalanx

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