Operations

Turning Managers into Leaders

Posted on May 1, 2002 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

?The test of a leader lies within the reaction and the response of his followers. His worth as a leader is measured by the achievements of the lead.? ? General Omar Bradley

Both the test and the measurement are a reflection of those that we influence. As we all know, these are difficult times for both our country and our industry. Now more than ever, operations and employees themselves are looking for both guidance and leadership from senior management.

Operations are focused on reducing revenues. That means that operators are asking people to do more with less, such as asking them to stretch the limits of their capabilities. Most operators have worked to reduce revenues and are operating a lean personnel front. And those that remain are asked to do more with less, operate under stressful conditions and are forced to function in multiple capacities. This greater demand on individuals calls for managers to become leaders.

There are hundreds of definitions of leadership. Warren Benes of University of California Berkeley defines it as, ?leaders are people who do things right. Managers are people who do the right thing.?

It?s been pondered for centuries as to whether leadership is something that is learned or is something that you?re born with. After all, great leaders are perceived as being the only ones who are able to have catapulted themselves into a leadership position.

?I disagree with that,? says Doug Werdebaugh, senior vice president, U.S. operations for Carey International. ?I believe that we all have the ability to apply basic principles of leadership that can really help the people who work for us.?

However, for one to really understand the difference between management and leadership, a person must first de-mythologize leadership or bring it down from the mountaintop. There is a perception that operators just need to be managers in order to run a business. That?s true for the mechanical side, but it?s leadership that collectively brings everyone together to get it done.

?After all, it?s my belief that most American companies are under lead and over managed,? Werdebaugh explains. ?As managers we know how to do the right thing. But in keeping with Benes? definition the question is, do we always do things right??

It?s not just one person who can stand up in front of everybody and lead. It?s collaboration, a team effort. It?s about being able to collectively pull everyone together to get a job done.

Benes? points out four leadership competencies. They are: Management of Attention, Management of Meaning, Management of Trust and Management of Self.

Management of Attention It?s defined as having a compelling vision and sense of outcome. One of the traits of real leaders today is their ability to draw people into them. They have the ability to enroll their staff in the vision that they have. They are able to let them see what they see. The challenge comes from the fact that not only do you have to have a vision, but you also have to enroll your people in to that vision. You need to make them understand that without them there is no sense of outcome and you can?t reach your goal.

Management of Meaning This means to make the goals apparent to others and communicate the vision. You have to communicate with your staff your vision and goals. You need to make sure that they understand your meaning clearly.

Werdebaugh explains the importance of communicating the meaning by comparing the contrasting styles of President Reagan and President Carter.

?Reagan was known as the great communicator,? he explains. ?One of his speechwriters once said that he could read a phone book and make it exciting. The reason for that was that Reagan liked to use metaphors that people could really relate to. For example, in his first budget address he used the term, a ?trillion dollars? by stacking bills up against the Empire State Building. People could understand that it certainly was a lot of money. But in contrast, President Carter was perceived as very boring. However, President Carter was one of the most intelligent presidents and had the most facts in his hand than any other president in history. His academic standing at the U.S. Naval Academy was impressive ? he graduated No. 4 out of 486 ? yet he could never really make the meaning come through.?

So the management of meaning is making your goals apparent and communicating them with others. This aspect is critically important.

?It is making them (your staff) understand that you have a clear vision, there is a sense of outcome and that there is a goal,? Werdebaugh says. ?Where do we want to be a year from now? Where do we want to be five years from now? These need to be known.?

Management of Trust Trust is essential in all organizations. When you think about trust, the main determinant is really reliability. Is your staff able to rely upon you?

?There?s a study that showed that people would much rather follow individuals that they could count on, even if they disagreed with their position, than with people who they agree with but who shift positions frequently,? Werdebaugh states.

You cannot stress the aspects of constancy and focus enough when it comes to trust in leadership.

?One of the most focused comments I ever heard happened when Pope John Paul came to the United States a few years ago and he was giving a press conference,? Werdebaugh explains. ?During that conference a reporter asked the Pope how he could justify allocating funds to build a swimming pool at the Papal Summer Palace. The Pope responded, ?I like to swim. Next question.??

That?s a very basic example, but a leader has to be focused, has to understand and has to be able to respond to people. People need to trust in the leadership. Management of trust is something very critical if you are to move forward with your leadership principles.

Management of Self You should know your strengths and deploy them effectively. You should by now know the areas that you are strong in, and you have to nurture those strengths. However, it is extremely important to know what your weaknesses are, so that you can work to develop or compensate for them.

?I?m reminded of the first operation that I had the opportunity to run for Carey,? Werdebaugh says. ?I was a newly retired military man and my strengths were in operations, they weren?t necessarily in financials. I had a young accounting manager at the time and she really tested me on that.?

He went on to explain, ?One of the things I had to do was that I had to apply a little management first, but then I also applied some leadership. She continued to test me on it and I told her one day ?I don?t need to know how to do your job, to do mine. However, you can bet that I?m going to be a quick study on that.??

He explains that statement was an example of a management principle, the fact that your staff always has to know that you?re in control. However, the leadership aspect came secondly.

?I said, ?You know, you?re absolutely right,? Werdebaugh says. ?That area, the financials, is an area that I have to brush up on. You can bet I?m going to be a quick study on it, but you know what, I need you. Without you, and if the financials aren?t right, we?re not going to be successful here. I need you to understand that.? Remember, you have to enroll them.?

The key is to minimize your weaknesses and don?t let them overwhelm you. You can?t be weak in everything. You need to remember that you will always have individuals out there who may have strengths in the areas that you do not. When you find this, really weigh on those areas and use them. You need to let those individuals know that they?re valuable and that they bring their strengths to the table, which help in the overall success of the job or company.

After understanding the four competencies, you should be able to ... for more information on this topic, see the May issue of LCT magazine.

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