Saturday, March 28, 2015

Management Versus Leadership

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.  He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."  Ronald Reagan

When I was selected to become a manager in my organization, I knew that there was much more to the job than just managing.  I had to lead.  And I doubted myself, because I wasn't sure if I was up to the task.  The timing wasn't great.  It was about 7 months after my wife's death, I had a daughter who was about to turn one.  My home was a shared living space for a village (" takes a village to raise a child..."), with both my in-laws and my parents, as well as a part-time nanny, spending time there.  This was by design, of course.  I had to care for my little girl and provide for her, be a full-time Dad while maintaining a full-time career and battling through the grief of losing the closest person to me in my life, my partner, my wife, my love, my teammate, my soul mate.  The stress was immense, and would only grow.  Now I was a manager, too.

The year after taking that job was awful.  I fell into depression, and my health worsened, both mentally and physically.  I felt removed from my daughter because there were so many other hands involved in her care, which made me feel even worse because I didn't think I was being the father I knew I had to be, but was in some ways a relief because it allowed me to focus on the other responsibilities in my life.  The grief was overpowering, though, and it overtook my faith in God.  I was in full crisis mode.  

I finally reached out to the pastoral community that I had access to.  I've been so fortunate throughout my life to have close friends, mentors, and acquaintances who are pastors, and several came to my rescue in various ways.  Many began or continued to pray for me.  I needed that more than anything, since my own prayer life was reduced to going through the motions.  Pastor George, a long-time family friend, was quick to lend a hand and make recommendations on ways to help.  Pastor Mark, though, called me the following day and asked if we could get together later that week.  And we did.

Mark and I met at a local restaurant and we talked.  We talked for a long time.  He asked a lot of questions and got me focused on the important things in my life.  His advice was very simple.  He said that I was of no help to my daughter until I got help for myself.  Until my head was on straight, what could I do to help anyone else?  That was the turning point for me, and the start of my long journey back to a healthy state of being.

Fast-forward to the present.  I was able to get help for myself, and it righted me in a lot of ways.  My spiritual life was the first step, which has grown by leaps and bounds by placing God first in my life, ahead of everything else.  This led right into getting my mental state improved.  While my physical health has remained a concern, I am getting help for that, as well.  Stress is still very much a day-to-day issue for me, especially as it pertains to my job.  But I've learned a lot about myself in the years since entering the management arena.  The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, which my organization provided to all of the managers, was a part of that learning process.

From the StrengthsFinder website:  "In 1998, the Father of Strengths Psychology, Dr. Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., along with Tom Rath and a team of scientists at Gallup, created the online StrengthsFinder assessment...and is the culmination of more than 50 years of Dr. Clifton's lifelong work:  leading millions of people around the world to discover their strengths."  Strengths Based Leadership was the key in educating so many of us.  I realized, through discovering my Strengths, what type of manager I am, and this formed the basis for my transformation from manager to leader in my organization.

My top 5 strengths are:  Responsibility, Maximizer, Relater, Belief, and Developer.  My boss understands me now, too, and even made the comment, "Well, no wonder you're so stressed!"  Apparently, as a result of my Responsibility strength, I take on my employee's stress, as well as anyone who shares a problem with me.  This is a tremendous load, but it's also not mine to take.  I just wish I could make myself understand that.

But this combination of Strengths has also led me to discover tremendous leadership potential, something that is more innate than I may have thought, and knowing it allows me to use it, and/or recognize it.  As an introvert, I hate the spotlight.  My job requires me to be in the spotlight to some degree, but the challenge for me is to make sure that I'm able to get the spotlight where it belongs:  on my employees.  I'm well beyond being a subject-matter expert in my organization.  After over 10 years in management, the technology has zipped past me and left me breathing gas fumes and dust.  The focus should never be on me anyway.  It belongs on my employees for their accomplishments.  And I realized that not only is this the right thing to do, it's also something that brings me great satisfaction.

This satisfaction manifested itself when I was directing stage performances of plays and sketches in my role leading the drama ministry at my church.  I loved finding roles for actors to play that would maximize their performances given their abilities, and that's what would happen.  An individual actor would then get the accolades for an incredible performance.  That made me feel great.  And it kept me out of the spotlight, where I was most comfortable.

So transferring this Strength into my career as a manager was fairly simple to realize.  And it has proven to be dramatic in its dividends.  I truly believe that being a manager is more than just managing one's employees.  It's all about leadership.  And in order to lead well, one must put aside their ego, put aside their need to be on stage (except when necessary), and let the employees shine.  Give them the opportunity to feel the spotlight.  They are more apt to support your lead and follow you into battle knowing you're not in it for the glory.  You're in it to lead them to success.

This post went all over the place.  I had no agenda when I started, but I hope it makes some sense.  I feel like anything useful that comes out of my writing is inspired by God, so I'm leaving it here in raw form.  I really just wanted to talk about the differences between management and leadership.  I know I have a long way to go, just as I've come a long way, and I just want to share when I have my little epiphanies.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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