If You Give Them an Inch They’ll Take a Mile. How About Shooting for Two Miles?

leadership listening skills at work adviceThere is an abundance of literature that describes the distinctions between Leadership and Management in organizations.  Much of it asserts that Management is of things and processes and Leadership is influencing people-but I find in real life that these distinctions often become blurred, and in fact don’t matter that much anyway.  To me, the important thing to consider is that both Leadership and Management are concerned with influencing behavior and results through others, though through use of different tools.  However, one thing that is common among both of these disciplines is a tendency to define them as control mechanisms rather than developmental opportunities.

When I am working with leaders/managers in organizations, I find it common for the focus to be ensuring that people stay within their prescribed job descriptions and not stray from their area of responsibility- “keeping staff in their box” as it were.  This is often not the case in entrepreneurial organizations where things are more fluid, or start ups where no routines are established.   But maintaining the status quo is very much the mode of operation for many organizations.  I’d like to suggest that one of the qualities of superior leadership is that of identifying the potential of staff members and “working the organization” so that these potentials can be realized.

This can take the form of internal “internships”, temporary assignments, further formal education, mentoring programs- the list is virtually endless.  The point is, in these tough economic times we often don’t have the luxury of adding staff; instead we have to rely on maximizing the talent we already have.  That requires creative thinking, encouragement to realize potential, investment in people; indeed, all the qualities we consider to be exceptional leadership.  This is not leadership in a traditional sense, but rather leading the way in the system so these things can take place.  The result is greater contribution to the organization by incumbents- and greater contribution to incumbent growth due to the opportunities presented.  The objective should not be to control how high one can fly, but instead find out and maximize the capacity!


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