Leadership is Why and When

Management is What and How.

Quick Say “Alaka‘i” contextual review:

  • Since returning from my vacation this past May, I have been blogging about leadership on Tuesdays, and management on Thursdays, with exceptions made when frequent questions come up.
  • When I speak of people learning to be Alaka‘i, I refer to them as managers, with the understanding they manage and they lead too. When they excel at both, they are recognized as leaders by others, but they never stop managing.
  • So the great Alaka‘i managers learn both management and leadership as skill sets, and as disciplines. In our discussions here, those are not roles, titles, or positions on an org chart. Manage and lead are verbs.

All that said, management and leadership are huge topics. However the reason we bother learning them at all is that they are exceptionally useful skill sets and disciplines. They matter.

We have spoken of leadership as the act of creating energy, and of management as the act of channeling that energy and sustaining it. Manage and lead are both verbs compelling us to action.

This week, let’s talk story about the kinds of actions we take with each one.

A Good Kind of Impatience

We manage and lead every single day. What constantly shifts is the amount we will be working at each one, devoting X amount of time to managing, and Y amount of time to leading.

When we feel we are compelled to curtail our management actions a bit and start leading more, we are beginning to get impatient ”“ the good kind of impatience (in contrast to the not-as-good impatience of micromanagement.) We have an idea about something, and it is about how we want the future to be different in some way than how things are right now.

Something else has happened as the idea grew in intensity: We can no longer come up with any good reason to wait.


Good Impatience Leads to Vision

These kinds of ideas are called “visionary” because they are usually tied up with colorful ribbons of “what if?” imagination, and topped with a dazzling big bow of “we can do this!” innovation: The gift itself ”“ and it IS a gift, much more spectacular that its wrappings ”“ is what we will start to call the vision of the idea. We feel compelled to lead because we can no longer hold our idea inside of us: A new source of energy is kicking in, big time! We have to share our idea, and we have to get others just as excited about it as we are, sharing the energy too.

We also want to share our impatience with them.
We think of it differently: We have a sense of urgency.

Those ribbons of imagination and that big bow of innovation are pretty, but we want to tear them off already. We want that spectacular vision, and we want it as soon as we can get our hands on it.

However, we know that something has to happen for that idea-turned-vision of the future to become reality. Maybe one thing, maybe a few things. That means something has to change.

A Barrier: the Obstacle called Change

Now this requirement of change can be a real downer and energy drainer, and we know that. We can start to get others excited about our idea called vision, but we sense a bit of hesitancy in sealing the deal by getting them to actually say yes and jump in. There is a barrier of some kind that has them feeling they are not as close to the gift we hold in our hands. The prospect of change can be a daunting obstacle.

You’re up to the challenge. When you are leading, the intensity of your idea generates enormous energy for you, more than you really need to get things done. Plus you want people involved: You know you cannot be a Change Agent without them. You are eager to have them take up arms with you in producing what it takes, and how it must happen for your vision to become reality.

More on that WHAT and HOW on Thursday, but first things first”

Leadership is Why and When

Change is usually fine when it’s about stuff changing. People get nervous and will hesitate when they think (or begin to realize) that we might want people to change, because we generally like other people to remain predictable. Others really begin to resist and throw up even more barriers (obstacles like excuses”) if they sense we want them to be the ones to change.

Suddenly, you find that leading hasn’t become about your idea at all. As amazing as it is to you, people are actually thinking about turning down your gift! The leadership activities you must turn your attentions to, have to do with WHY and WHEN, and specifically

  • WHY we should all WANT this vision, as a shared vision (not just the leader’s) even though it means changing, and
  • WHEN we must (not should, MUST) begin to actively work on it, and BE those ribbons of imagination and that bow of innovation.

There are WHY and WHEN considerations in management too.

The difference is with sense of urgency and that degree of good impatience/ bad impatience.

The good impatience has that sense of urgency for imagination and innovation. The bad impatience remains in the detail obsession of micromanagement, when we should be at GEMO: Good enough ”“ let’s move on! Most managers are working diligently (or admittedly stuck) somewhere in the middle, and a partnership with a “goodly impatient” leader can be quite a fabulous trigger and catalyst.

The very best WHY you can lead with, the one which will appeal most to the “What’s in it for me?” question we will all naturally ask, will have to do with alignment with company values. As we constantly discover, values are the secret sauce.

Time for Action – Yours

Remember: Leading is a verb, and verbs are about taking actions. So what activities (the tangible way to consider action) must YOU associate with this WHY and this WHEN of which we speak?

If you are ready to lead, you probably know the answer(s) to that question in the context of the idea you have. My question is to you is this: What are you waiting for?

Waiting, wishing and hoping is not a good strategy… Between now and part two on Thursday when we consider the management partnership to this, choose your Next Action, and take it. Be the Alaka‘i leader you are ready to be.

Here is a blast from the recent past to help get you started: Your Alaka‘i Language of Leadership. Clarify your talk, so you can walk that talk. If you need more, review this one: Can you define your Leadership Greatness?

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?

Photo credit: Exuberance by Rosa Say.

For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story copies of the links embedded in this posting:

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
July 2009 ~
Leadership is Why and When