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


Decision Making Models: When Consensus just doesn’t make sense

Consensus as a decision-making model is great…except when it isn’t.  When the need to get buy-in is crucial for success, the group is relatively small and time is NOT of the essence consensus can be a great way to build teamwork, enhance results, and improve people’s ability to be autonomous towards team outcomes.  But people often confuse collaboration with consensus.  Collaboration is an idea and solution generating method, consensus is a decision making model. Though related, they are not the same.

It is also noteworthy to distinguish between being inclusive and being collaborative.  This difference may be a little more subtle but none the less important.  Being kept in the loop (inclusion) is slightly different than having your voice heard (collaboration).  You can be inclusive and never get any input from the other party, or perhaps never integrate their input into the final product.  It all depends on your intent and the other person’s preference.  One person may want to be included but not be overly concerned with giving input on one project, whereas another person has a vested interest and wants to play a role rather than just be informed of what is going on.

They all live on the same spectrum but at varying degrees.  Inclusion is usually a basic desire for most team members – at least tell me what is happening; collaboration is desired when people have expertise to give and a desire to do so; consensus is best when people have a vested interest in the outcome and their full support is required for the end decision to be successful.  So while each can be an effective choice, going to the extreme of consensus all the time can be an exhausting and time consuming process.  And it is not always what people need or desire – sometimes they just want you to make a decision.