There is an invisible wall in the business world. It’s the wall between management and leadership; being a good manager and becoming a great leader. People can spend an entire career and never break through that wall. The wall is not about equal opportunity, hiring practices, promotion, or selection. Nor is it about gender or age.
No, this wall is about moving from Management to Leadership.
The Entrepreneur’s Conundrum
The easiest way to explain this wall is to start with an entrepreneur. A solopreneur; a person who thinks he/she has an idea and wants to start a business.
Let’s say our hero gets some funding and launches the business. In no time, the business starts to make sales and grow. Pretty soon the owner needs to hire people to help fill all the orders, make more widgets, or whatever they are doing. They need more people. Now they have a team running. The first experience is to manage the process. The owner has to show everyone how to do or make the things you meant to do in the business.
Your idea as the entrepreneur has to get communicated, trained, and shared with others to let the business grow. As the Manager, you track the numbers, make the deposits and pay for expenses. Things seem to be going OK. You survived the start-up phase.
As the business grows, you have to grow with it. More resources, bigger payrolls, larger space, etc. But the owner seldom thinks about growing their own ability to manage the business. The thinking goes something like this.
What I did before got us here, I’ll do more of that, and we’ll be fine.
That works for a little while longer, but the business still keeps growing. Now it’s become a full-sized enterprise with layers of management, division of teams for specialized skills, and other expanding roles.
The Thirst for Leadership
Somewhere in between that expansion phase and the enterprise phase, the Invisible Wall takes shape. As the company grows, so does the wall. What used to be decent management starts to have problems. The old ways to push people and materials don’t work anymore.
It’s not the people or the business, it’s the owner’s capacity to lead that is crumbling.
This new entity that is the company is hungry for leadership. Not more management, but bona fide leadership.
Leadership has to step in and take over.
As Monte Pendleton, Silver Fox Advisor, and founding member states “There is no particular timetable for these stages. But the ending of Stage 1 usually becomes apparent when the requisite managerial skills begin to change. The very personality, skills, and capabilities that allowed you to succeed as a Stage 1 entrepreneur or start-up owner/operator, now become detrimental to you in the latter stages.”
When the wall becomes apparent, you have some choices to consider.
First, you could decide to quit growing; stay the size you are and keep doing the same things. Or, you can choose to modify your management style and press on toward the next phase. Hire a coach or an advisor to guide you through the changes needed to break through the wall. Lastly, you might choose to replace yourself with someone who has better leadership skills and experience, allowing you to revert to the core talent and gifts/specialties you started with.
If all else fails, sell the business at its then market value and go fishing. (I digress).
I dedicate my coaching practice to owners and executives who are right at the wall. There are senior managers everywhere who still need to embrace the reality of the presence of the wall. Believe it or not, a wall always exists between the stage of the business unit you run and your ability to lead.
I’ve said it many times before, a good manager can have a long and successful career never being more than a manager. Turn the screws, meet the deadlines, ship those deliverables and do it through strong management skills; these can be a nice career. However, for the good of the growth of the enterprise, you need to become a leader. If you already know something about leadership, be a better leader.
Monte states “Leadership is the ability to cause others to take action even when the action is outside their comfort zone.”
Dave Guerra in his book “Superperforming” says “Management is about process and leadership is about people.”
I love that explanation. So true.
Think about your situation right now. It doesn’t matter whether you own the business or run a large team/division inside one. Ask yourself, “where is my wall?”
Question: Have you broken through the wall, realizing the need for leadership over management?
The difference between “knowing how to manage” processes and methods, or being able to be a manager, and “knowing how to guide” people, that is, being a leader, is substantial.
The mistake of confusing the two knowledge derives from the devaluation of the “human” component of the managerial role, which leads to an imbalance of knowing how to do with respect to knowing how to be. The leader is in fact a reference figure within the company, capable of motivating, inspiring, directing and supporting people, guiding them personally towards their goals. With this in mind, the leader is called on a daily basis to come to terms with himself, to know people deeply as individuals and within the dynamics of the group, to internalize the objectives and determine the processes to achieve them. While everyone, with adequate preparation, can be a manager, to become a leader you need strong personal involvement and an attitude consistent with the importance of the role.