Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Sunday, April 17, 2005

From the "if the cap fits" department...

Average managers treat all their employees the same. Great managers discover each individual's unique talents and bring these to the surface so everyone wins.

"... there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can't play if you don't know how each piece moves. More important, you won't win if you don't think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.

This is the exact opposite of what great leaders do. Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share. The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person's particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. This doesn't mean a leader can't be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires."

Excerpt from Harvard Business Review.

[Via Harvard Business School Working Knowledge]

Back in the day, when John Adair and von Clausewitz were the leadership and strategy texts appropriate to the path I was on, I viewed the concept of leadership in a particular way. These days, my perspective is very different. The excerpt above nails it pretty well, in my opinion.

I've been thinking a lot about the role of managers and leaders over the last few weeks; particularly, when and why the roles, responsibilities and personalities specific to each role collide. And contrasting that with the organic strength that can be engendered when the diversity of a group can be harnessed, especially behind some shared value. The next post, which I read while pursuing other interests, sets a telling (for me) counterpoint:

The BlogHer Conference has been announced and registration is currently open. I want to see this conference be as diverse as possible - diverse along every axes imaginable. I need your help in organizing women bloggers from around the world with a million perspectives to attend. I'm also interested in adding things to the conference that will meet the needs of different types of women. For me, the goal of this conference is to build social solidarity amongst women. If you have ideas, please let me know.

But please spread the word. The key to success for this event is to get as many different women on board as possible.

There are some scholarships available and i'm hoping that we can find ways to fly women around the world in. Also, if you have any leads to making this possible, please let me know!

[Via apophenia]

Success by gathering people of as much diversity of experience and opinion as possible in a single place; what a novel idea! Maybe something that modern business managers and leaders might consider. Then again, maybe this essentially female notion (of building connections and community, rather than marking out territories) has no place in the cut-and-thrust land-grab of the modern corporate world.

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