Skilled People Managers Are The Best Leaders

management, skills, leadership, growth, training, management training

WARNING: This might offend —

“Leadership” is the most over-emphasized ability, over-used buzzword, over-stressed quality, and the most misunderstood concept in the organizational world today.

Yep, I went there. ?

The #1 Problem in Organizations

The Number One problem in organizations today is not a “lack of leadership.”

It is untrained people managers.

In the training field since 1986, I’ve heard the clamor for “leadership.” You have, too …

“Emerging leader” programs abound in corporations.

“Leaders raising leaders” is a dominant theme in churches.

“Unleash the leader within you” is screeched by ranting speakers.

“Leadership Qualities” is a rated category on performance reviews.

Question: How many books have been written on leadership?

Answer: Too many.

The number of definitions that exist for the word “leadership” might just number in the — well, too many range.

Everyone wants to be a leader, unleash the leader, emerge as a leader, and raise up more leaders—but no one can define “leadership.”

Sorry, but it’s all just too funny to me. ?

The Confusion About Leadership

So often in training classes, boardroom gatherings, seminars, and “lunch and learns,” someone poses this question: What is more important to our organizational success, management or leadership?

You know what the preferred answer is 95% of the time.

Training programs are titled “Moving from Manager to Leader,” as if being a manager means you’re not quite there. People are simply obsessed with the idea of leadership. Not that there’s anything wrong with leadership. The problem is, we lift up leadership at the expense of management. I’ve heard many times, “Managers manage tasks, but leaders lead people” and “Management is doing things right, but leadership is doing the right things.”

What’s Lost When We Vaunt “Leadership”

When everything is all about “leadership,” we often miss out on quality, skilled people management — and that’s not good. Why? Because this is still true:

People don’t leave organizations. They leave managers.

The reality is, the vast majority of managers have never been trained. Promoted, yes. Trained, no.

Are you a manager of people? Then this is what you and all “aspiring leaders” need to know: Effective people management is leadership.

The Truth Of The Matter

When people describe their boss as a “leader” and are asked to articulate specifically what that person does to “lead”—this is what we hear:

My boss communicated what I should do

She followed up with me consistently.

When I got it right, he praised me.

She told me when I was off track.

He talked to me—and listened.

I was trained and coached.

She spent time with me.

He showed me respect.

Guess what? Every item above is a people management skill. It’s what effective managers do, day in and day out, with and for their people.

The Call To Action

It’s time to stop glorifying leadership over management. Let’s recognize when a boss is called a “great leader,” he/she is first an outstanding manager.

If you’re a manager or hope to be one, get rid of all those I’m a Leader Because I Climbed a Mountain books and become the best people manager possible. Then, when your team praises you for your “amazing leadership,” you’ll know it’s really just about managing people and managing them well

Managers, get trained. Your team will thank you for it.

Ready to dig deeper and become an outstanding manager?

Join us here for exclusive tips!

Learn more about being outstanding in the book titled … Outstanding!


8 Responses

  1. John – I love QBQ in fact it is mandatory reading for all new hires. Leadership is easy defined Leadership is Influence nothing more nothing less. That is Leadership good leaders use the influence they have for the benefit to benefit those they lead and to fulfill the mission or vision they are committed to. Bad leaders use influence to exploit, dominate others to fulfill themselves.

    1. George, I appreciate that you used the word “influence” vs. motivate. Many things can motive an individual: money, power, fear, appreciation, etc. Leaders do not motivate, they influence and inspire.

  2. BRAVO, John! This is more than excellent. It is insightful and nails the topic well. The traits of a good leader–which really are traits of good management–as you list here make a great checklist for managers. I get answers like that when I ask people to describe characteristics of good teams they’ve been on. This message is powerful and should challenge managers in all arenas–business, non-profits, churches, civic groups, even the family–to hone their people skills or seek training for the good of all! Thank you for this wisdom and truth!

  3. Thanks John. This rung a chord this week in regards to a situation with my daughter’s youth leader. Although this is intended for a “business” environment, it holds true for any group.

  4. I disagree with the blending of terms of leadership and management.

    Leadership is personal between the leader and the led. A leader inspires. Leadership places responsibility on the leader. A leader adapts to the personnel and the situation. They figure out what will work for the personnel and the situation, and they do it. If a mission fails, the leader takes responsibility for the failure.

    The led cover the leader’s butt.

    Management is an arbitrary formula that will “always work”. If you follow the formula (set by someone who has no knowledge of the local situation and personnel), any problems are due to the managed. A manager demands. A manager sets arbitrary performance goals. Management decides on their own what reasonable expectations are without consideration of the personnel and the situation. The structure of management is something many (if not most) managers hide behind; a way to place blame on the managed rather than the manager. A manager NEVER deviates from the management formula for ANY reason. Management is for managers who do not follow QBQ. If a mission fails, the managed are blamed because the manager followed the formula; therefore it CANNOT be the fault of the manager.

    A manager covers his butt.

    I wish we had a leader. We’ve only got managers.

    Vietnam was managed by the politicans. WWII and the Gulf War were led.

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