Leaders and Leadership: Why Managers Don't Stand a Chance

by Stacie L. L. Morgan, PhD on 12/14/15 10:42 AM

managers don't stand a chanceIf you are a manager, were a manager, or if you have ever cared for children – (seriously!) – you’ll know what I’m about to say is true. Managers don’t stand a chance when it comes to getting others to do what they just don’t want to do. For those who’ve yet to feel this frustrating reality, let me share two brief examples. First is the manager who wants to increase efficiency and second is the parent who wants to enforce bed time.

The manager’s response is to clarify the procedure for creating efficiency or the policy on bed time, over and over again, sometimes louder and louder or in varying ways. So, how is that working for you? Yeah, I thought so.

What does the leader do in these examples? I’m so glad you asked! The leader identifies the goal and purpose and enlists participation in solving the problem and achieving the goal.

  • Example one: “Increased efficiency has been identified as our target for increasing productivity and revenue. I know how we do our jobs affects our individual and collective job performance, but also our quality of life on the job. So before I start suggesting or implementing any changes in the spirit of increasing efficiency, I wanted to know what you see as potential steps or areas of attention that would increase efficiency from your point of view.”
  • Example two: “I’ve noticed that you are a bit grumpy when you don’t get enough sleep. You obviously aren’t feeling your best then. I want to make sure you have a happy day and get to school on time. Before I go ahead and set an earlier bed time for you to help you get enough rest, I wanted to ask you what you thought would be some ways to make sure you got the hours of sleep your body needs for you to feel good and get up easily.”

In our first example, the leadership approach acknowledges the human side of the equation:

  • Each individual’s knowledge of how to be successful fulfilling their role
  • How each individual experiences the time they spend being at work
  • The unique perspective, knowledge and skills each individual contributes
  • Each individual’s fear of the change/the unknown.

In our second example, the leadership approach also acknowledges the human side of the equation:

  • The child’s knowledge of how to be successful in their role (as an obedient child)
  • How each child experiences the time they spend being at home with their family
  • The unique perspective, knowledge and skills each can contribute to their own success
  • Each child’s fear of the change/the unknown.

Every employee or child in our two examples wants to be successful, happy, and enjoy their time with others, no matter what they are doing. Leadership is about tapping into those positive desires we share and leveraging them to guide collaborative decisions and shared results. The leader’s role is to tap capacity to deliver changed results, while the manager’s role is to tap processes that deliver consistent results.

When trying to achieve results in an organization of people, management will only get you so far. It takes leadership to increase efficiency and effectiveness, while management doesn’t stand a chance.

At Norwich University, the Master of Science in Leadership program takes the management of people one step further by helping mid-level to senior leaders inspire positive change in their organizations.

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This post was written by Stacie L. L. Morgan, PhD

Stacie Morgan is the Director of Norwich’s Master of Science in Leadership and Master of Science in Executive Leadership programs An international strategy consultant, speaker, author, and columnist, she is the founder and president of the strategy consulting firm Balanced Management Inc. For over 30 years, she has worked with multinational corporations, small businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and the U.S. military to help individuals and organizations define and achieve success. She holds a doctoral degree in strategic management with a sub-specialty in leadership and a master’s degree in education in organizational development and training.