Why being a Leader OR a Manager is bad

I’ve met many people who consider themselves leaders OR managers in my career…and I’m still pretty young. What I have NOT met a lot of are people exemplify the full spectrum of competencies.

The focus on leadership lately is not bad per se, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. Managers have focused so much on being collaborative and consensus building that they have forgotten or are unwilling to make decisions, and yet they have not yet learned how to release decision making to their team members. So either decisions take far too long to make or they never get made at all. And in the world of accelerated change this can be a major hindrance.

I see the challenge coming from the contrast of knowledge and wisdom. As I interpret those two terms, knowledge is about information and learning of a topic or principle; wisdom is about balancing when to apply that knowledge and when not to. So simply knowing how to collaborate or achieve consensus is not enough if you think it is always appropriate. (See Over-collaboration) Even more dangerous is when collaboration and consensus are confused.

Managers need to be able to make decisions, regardless of their level. And they need to know when their team needs to make decisions. Developing leadership and management skills together and knowing which tool to use is what makes you effective. If you are not good at one, your efforts at the other will probably suffer. As an example, if you struggle with delegating completely and giving ownership to your employees (management skill) then setting a vision for them to move towards (leadership skill) may leave them frustrated. It would be like setting the rabbit running but keeping the greyhounds on a leash.

It’s not about how leaders and managers are different, that just creates a false belief that people are (or should be) one or the other. Ultimately, it is a false differentiation and needless labeling. Regardless of what you call yourself, you need to be good with people if you work with others and you need to be effective with processes and things if you manage a function.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln


How Social Media Might Increase Collaboration

In a recent article, Fast Company, along with a noted neurological researcher conducted a very rough experiment in how the brain reacts chemically when the participant is engaged in social media activity.  The results were interesting and could have some huge implications for increasing collaboration in the workplace.

The experiment was designed to test levels of oxytocin prior to and after engaging in social media, in this case “tweeting”.  Oxytocin (not to be confused with the narcotic pain reducer oxycontin) is largely regarded as the neurochemical that spawns “empathy, generosity, trust, and more.”   The experiment showed that after only 10 minutes of tweeting, the test subject’s oxytocin levels increased by an average of 11%.  Further experiments in oxytocin levels have resulted in evidence that higher levels of oxytocin increase feelings of trust and collaboration.

While the test is not scientifically verified the idea that when people engage in social media they may become more collaborative might help shake off some critics of social media in the workplace.  That is not to say everyone must engage in it, but the restriction of employees use of social media at work might be hurting their desire to be collaborative.

When you consider that collaborative environments have a proven 750-to-1 percentage increase in net-income versus non-collaborative environments (Kotter and Heskett, 1992) restricting people’s collaborative desire is nothing to sneeze at.

To read more about the study head to:  http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/147/doctor-love.html

Kotter, J and Heskett, J.  1992.  Corporate Culture and Performance.  Free Press. New York.