Lead, follow or get out of the way

Leadership is an action, not a position. I’m always impressed with leaders who can define a vision, set parameters (or even an ideal end state)  and empower their team to implement strategy. Delegation is not abdication. The responsibility of the leader is to develop or bring the right mix of both talent and personality together to ensure the organization moves forward.

I am of the belief that most folks around the office fall into one of a few personality buckets. For me, the dominant persona’s are either visionaries or executors.  Visionaries  inspire from 30,000 feet and map out strategy.  They are the big sky thinkers who see things that others can’t.  Those who have perspective and the agility to adjust to the wind and advance the cause from the clouds.

Then there are tacticians and professionals – the doers. Skilled individuals who can carry out a vision and produce the work that gets the results. An organization needs these tactical experts who can carry out the vision and apply it to the daily tasks and responsibilities.  Crudely, I see this  as the difference between an interior designer who can pick out the tile colour that compliments the overall mood of the room versus the installer who can get the tile down on time and on budget.  It takes both to really get it right.

Perhaps a more rare individual is someone who can straddle the lines between the creative or visionary type and someone who can execute well. I find all too often that senior executives have lost touch with what it takes to execute a program, and therefore can’t check their reality in terms of program cost or deliverables.  In this situation middle managers often tend to be mediators of expectations, rather than performing higher level functions that can actually move the organization forward.

The danger of course is visionary who thinks they are a practitioner. It’s not to suggest they can’t exist, but it is so unimaginably rare. The crossing of those lines can have hugely detrimental effect on a project or firm.  Know your limit, play within it I say.

I really enjoyed this Fast Company 30 second MBA interview with Ben Huh,  CEO and founder of Cheezburger.  I think he captures the essence of what I’m trying to get at here.  Hire good people, get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

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