Any discussion on leadership needs to start with a simple definition. Let’s start first with what Leadership is not. Leadership is not management. I’m not saying that management is not important. It is incredibly important. Management however deals with static systems. As long as things are not changing then management will suffice. However, as soon as things start to change then leadership is required.
We often use leadership and management interchangeably, and that is a shame because they mean very different things. In most jobs you need both management and leadership skill. These two skillsets can reside in the same individual, but that does not mean that they always do.
So how do you know if a person has the ability to lead as well as manage?
To answer this question consider the old saw; ‘You must walk the walk not just talk the talk’. In other words, in order to lead others you must first be able to lead yourself.
But what does it mean to able to ‘lead yourself’?
Leadership is about going on a journey.
I have found that leadership is all about going on a journey. If there is not a GAP between where you are and where you want to be, then there is no journey, and management skills are all that is necessary. However, if there is a GAP – then we will need a very specific set of skills to navigate that path.
Normally when we discuss this concept in the context of leadership we are talking about the setting and accomplishment of goals.
Your goal will involve a journey if at least one of the following is true:
You have never attempted to accomplish a specific goal before
You have attempted to accomplish the goal but have not been successful
The goal has been successfully accomplished before however the external environment has changed
The goal has been successfully accomplished before however the people on the team are different
There are three elements necessary to successfully complete any journey.
In order to complete a journey you need:
To know where you are starting from.
To know where you are going.
While reams of articles have been written on setting Vision (#2) and on Planning (#3), there seems to be an assumption that it is obvious where the starting point of any journey is (#1). I have found that this is very rarely true. Even when there is universal agreement on the metrics that measure where we are, there is almost never agreement on WHY those metrics are what they are.
A 3 Step Process To Decide if a Manager is also a Leader
Which brings us to a very simple test to see if a manager is also a leader. In essence, what we need to see if if they can ‘walk the walk’ or if they just ‘talk the talk’. This simple process will work whether you are interviewing a new leader from inside or outside your organization. It will also work if the person is already employed as a manager with your firm and you are trying to determine their leadership potential.
Ask the candidate to recall a time recently when they were having difficulty accomplishing a goal – whether they were successful in achieving the goal or not is not important.
Ask them to describe what was happening and what they desired to have happen. What was their plan to achieve the goal?
Where was the locus of control? Were they in control of the outcome or were they focused on how other people had to change in order for the goal to be achieved?
Resist the urge to give too much direction. What are you are attempting to discern is:
Can they identify a time when they were having difficulty accomplishing a goal? If they cannot, then they are either not in the practice of setting and achieving goals, they set them too low to ensure success, or they are unwilling to share. If they answer in ‘generalities’ you should redirect them and ask for a specific example.
Were they able to accurately ascertain what the true starting point of the ‘journey’ was? Are they focused on the results they desired, or do they delve into the behaviors and skills required to achieve the desired results.
When they describe what was happening do they assign blame outside themselves? While there are almost always external factors that hinder our success, leaders focus on what they can control and influence.
Did the plan involve what other people needed to do differently, or did it focus primarily on what they needed to do differently? While leaders may not be creative in the ‘artistic’ sense of the word, they are creative in trying new paths and solutions and asking for advice from others.
While no process is perfect, this 3 step process will help you determine if a manager has the ability to also lead.
We have found that what frustrates leaders the most is not that they have problems. What frustrates leaders the most is having the same problem over and over.
We have a process that helps leaders move past their existing problems and accelerates their ability to achieve the results they always knew their team was capable of.