ABC’s Of Leadership – M Is For Mission

A leader’s mission is to direct an organization, so it can achieve profitability. Although this seems like a simple statement, the reality as we know is much more complicated. A leader needs to oversee a maze of issues while staying ahead of the organization’s competitors. On top of it all, if one bad move is made, this mistake can be broadcasted across the organization, the nation, and the world in seconds.An interesting article recently published discussed that great leaders spend time every day learning. It may come from books, newspapers, webinars, or other sources, but they see the value in taking the time to learn something new every day. By doing this, it provides them the opportunity to consider different options or explore new paths that they had not considered before. As a recruiter for over thirty years, it amazes me when candidates tell me they don’t have the time for professional development. Even if a person spends half an hour a day learning, this in turn is 3 1/2 hours a week which equates to 182 hours a year!

Learning keeps you young too according to my grandmother who lived to be 103 years old. She was an avid book reader and also read the newspaper every day. She explained to me many times that consistent learning expands your horizons. As an example, you can be reading about a place you may never visit but you still feel like you had visited there at some point in your life.Leaders need to stay abreast of developments in other industries that may not affect their own business today, but could possibly cause an issue for their business in the future. After reading the biography of Steve Jobs, I thought about all of the different businesses I currently lead and how I could integrate them for many of my clients. Collaborations can be created as well to leverage two very diverse companies. Some collaborations that have been very successful include Nestle deciding to sell Girl Scout cookie candy bars and Dunkin Donuts selling Baskin Robbin flavored drinks.

When was the last time you dedicated time to learn and really focus on your own personal development? Have you had an Aha! moment after something you read or listened to on a podcast, etc.? If so, how did you incorporate this new idea into your business?Other “M” words to ponder – manage, magic, mature, mentor, moral, motivate, and marketing.

First Line Manager: Leaders Must Manage to Lead

Leaders must be managers; but, managers do not necessarily have to be leaders. Leaders have to manager all the resources at their disposal, self, others, communication, etc. Managers also must do the same. Both are responsible for results. The manager does this by following traditional procedures and policies. The leader does the same all the while looking for better ways not so traditional. Leaders do this by first knowing traditional ways and gaining the trust of others. Leaders start with management and then move to leadership.

We have so many leadership experts telling us all the qualities that leaders must have. These traits are all valid. These experts may never have lead an organization. Most will never tie management to leadership. Leadership and management share most of these traits. These experts seem to think leaderships is on a higher plain than management.

The chief difference is that the leader finds new ways of doing; while, the manager uses the tried ways. Managers maintain the status quo; Leaders change it. The outcome, service or product, may look the same, the difference is the path the leader takes to accomplish the outcome.

Lincoln appointed Generals that managed the war in traditional ways. All failed. They managed from a command center not from the front line. Then, Lincoln chose General Grant. Grant supported General Sherman. These Generals were first of all good managers of the resources under their control. They were also on the front line.

Both Grant and Sherman knew how to manage and lead. Grant led in unconventional ways; like his raid through Mississippi to capture Vicksburg. He managed to find a way to supply Chattanooga by the “Cracker line.” Sherman made sure he could reach Atlanta by keeping the army’s supply line open; then, living off the land to capture Savannah. Also, each general taught their army to drill before they marched. They knew their men must know the drill commands before they could lead them in battle. Without the drills the men would be a gang not an army.

How does this relate to leadership? Leaders must know how to manage the people around them. Their decisions must relate to reality. The leader first gains trust by learning the status quo before moving in new directions. Leaders with this establish trust will be able to lead people to a new way of doing and thinking.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson led his army on a gruesome march through the mountains during the snowy winter of 1862 to the cities of Bath and Romney. Many of his commanders and solders were against this campaign. During this march Jackson endured all the hardships of his men. One story is about three men waking in the morning covered with snow. Two wake up and start complaining that the Gen Jackson does not know where he is going and he does not care about their hardships. The third man gets up shakes off the snow and mounts his horse; then, Gen. Jackson rides off. Gen. Jackson experiencing the same hardships as his men gained him their trust. When Jackson commanded “March” his men followed. The trust of his men led to one of the greatest marches in history. The march that flanked the Union army during the battle of Chancellorsville and led to a Confederate victory. Before any of these battles he taught his men how to march by drilling, drilling, drilling. In other words he had to manage them first.

Let me bring this down a bit. As a first line manager I learned existing processes in detail. This is key to finding other ways to accomplish better results. Employee’s respect that you know what they do and how they do it. To change, you compare the old way of doing to the new way from the employee’s perspective. Since, you know the old process, you can relate the benefit of the new process in ways the employee can understand. Employees tend to resist leadership if it is not founded on an understanding of what they do and how they do it. Learning their way is key to getting their trust. Also, realize any new process now becomes the status quo; and thus, is subject to change. This causes the complaint; we just learned the new process and now you are changing it again. Your response,” When you or I find a better way we will follow that way. Change is a way of life; it is not optional.”

This sounds simple, it is not. I managed three restaurants and two motels before I discovered that some employees resist you from the start. The first day at the Ramada Inn Crest, a bankrupt hotel, I fired an employee that was insubordinate. When I became the District Accounting Manager at Haleyville the first week I gave two reprimands to an employee; one for insubordination and a one for abuse of sick leave. My first day as the Business Office Manager in Dora I informed the three Customer Service Representative that being late was not an option; we will report on time. All of them were late. Before you can lead you have to teach your employees how you expect them to act. This is the management drill that starts the day you get the job. These actions allow you to lead your employees in new directions. All your employees must move in the same direction. Effective leadership and management requires standards of conduct and your courage to require everyone to adhere to them; including yourself.

Drill first; then, march; manage first; then, lead. This reminds me of a story. Farmer 1 sold his mule to farmer 2. Farmer 2 phones farmer 1 and says, “This mule is not fit for the plow. When I say gee; he haws; when I say haw he gees; you got to take this dud back.” Farmer 1 said I will be over in the morning, you must be doing something wrong. Next morning, farmer 1 said let me see what you are doing. The farmer 2 starts plowing and gives the commands and the mule does not respond. Farmer 1 said stop; he picks up a board hits the mule between his ears. He says Gee; hits him again and says Haw. So, Farmer 2 starts to plow and the mule follows the instruction as commanded. Farmer 1 tells farmer 2 the problem is you have got to get the mule’s attention first. I am not saying for you to treat your employees like that mule: but, somehow you have to get their attention. Your employees need to know they are moving forward to accomplish the organization’s goals.

I know a very concrete example of leadership philosophy gone wrong. The Jasper District got a new District Manager, J. Brown. This person came from the corporate headquarters. This person supervised the janitors and had no field experience. One of the first programs instituted under this new manager was a team building class. The trainers came from the corporate headquarters. All of the managers in the district were required to attend. We went through a high level class on leadership and teamwork. At the end of the program the new manager asked for our thoughts on the program. Barry, a line crew foreman, said he thought it was a bunch of “hogwash” we have been working together for years and know how to work together.

Hogwash? When my turn come I said, “You should defer to experience. We have been working in the district for years and we will help you.” The District Manager came to my office after being moved to another position and asked me how could I have been successful? I said you could have deferred to your managers experience. This District Manager wanted to lead but did not know how to manage the districts most important resource, the managers.

I have read numerous book on leadership and management. One book that combines the two is Craig R. Hickman’s 1990 book, Mind of a Manager Soul of a Leader.” In his preface he makes a statement that is the most important reason to read this book. Craig states, “roughly rate yourself as more of a manager or more of a leader with respect to the issue in question. You may be surprised to find that, sometimes you manage, sometimes you lead, and sometimes you do a bit of both. In fact, as you read each chapter, keep in mind that most people operate with a combination of managerial and leadership skills. Rarely does one individual always manage or always lead.” Wow, as a first line manager what a reason for me to read his book. My role as a manager is to carry out our company’s mission; but, as a leader I know I must be challenged to find the best ways to do it. This means change.

A rider who mounts a horse and spurs it before taking the reins in his hand does not know the direction the horse will take. The rider must take the reins in hand first to provide direction. Also, it also helps to know the character of the horse. For instance, if you are going into battle it would be good to know if the horse is gun shy.

Point is, leaders must know where they want to go, know the resources of their organization, know how to manage these resources, before they can lead the organization to success.

I hope I have my case: Leaders must manage to lead.

Some books I enjoyed by and about leaders:

Mind of a Manager Soul of a Leader by Craig R. Hickman

Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman

Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence by Gen. Heros Von Borcke

The Long Roll a novel by Mary Johnston

A Southern Women’s Story by Phoebe Yates Pember

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer by Gen. Sorrel G. Moxley

Reminiscences of the Civil War by Gen. John B. Gordon

A diary from Dixie by Mary Chestnut