The Leadership/Management Partnership Toward Vision

I often encourage you to think of leadership and management as verbs instead of nouns: Think of them as leading and managing. One person ”“ the Alaka‘i manager ”“ does both things, and can do them daily.

One way to self-coach yourself into embracing this concept, getting it to be more useful for you in day-to-day practice, is to choose another noun and then Ho‘o it (‘verb it’ to make it happen) in your own definition of a leadership connection versus a management connection ”“ or as a complementary partnership, with one enhancing the other.

From the archives: Be a Deskless Manager: Ho‘o!
My favorite Hawaiian coaching word is a very short one: Ho‘o. We hear it more as a prefix to other Hawaiian words, as it turns nouns into verbs. By itself, ho‘o means to make something happen. Ho‘ohana: Work on purpose, and with intention. Ho‘ohanohano: Bring dignity and respect to your actions. Ho‘okipa: Give unconditional hospitality, and serve. Ho‘oponopono: Make things right, bring them to balance.

Chaya and Michelle by drurydrama on Flickr
Chaya and Michelle by drurydrama on Flickr. Leading and managing can partner in much this same way, where the blossom is vision.

Let’s do that today with a noun which is fairly huge in business-speak: VISION. As a business owner recently reminded me, motivational speakers and other business gurus can make a big deal about vision, but mostly from the leadership perspective. So let’s look at it as a leadership/management partnership instead, for there most certainly is leading and managing within the attainment of any vision.

We Lead with Vision to Show the Way Forward

We have defined leadership as the creation of workplace energies around an idea or meaningful cause, and those future-shaping ideas and causes are collectively referred to as vision; they paint a picture of what we would like to see happen.

When we lead, we are intent on getting change to happen, for we do accept that “if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to get the same things we’ve always gotten.” If we do the same work, we get the same result. What vision does for us, is articulate a different result in a very compelling way so that we begin to want it badly ”“ badly enough to start expending the efforts connected to personally meaningful change.

When we lead with vision, we get the promise of the future to be a significant influence on the workplace: The more compelling it is, the more people salivate for it and thus the more they will willingly embrace whatever change is necessary to get closer to it, leaving their yesterdays behind once and for all.

Vision has some fantastic deliverables. Besides change, a compelling vision serves up positivity, hope and optimism. It tickles our imagination and thus our creativity and inventiveness. It gives us the reasons we need to work harder and smarter, while feeling we will have a personal stake in the rewards of doing so.

One of the greatest gifts a manager (who leads) can give an employee, is a picture of the future which has that employee greatly valued and participating within it. Great leaders make room in great visions for people to see themselves flourishing.

No wonder motivational speakers and business gurus make such a big deal about vision (and yes, I do too!)

We Manage with Vision so Work Processes are Worthwhile

The problem with an over-bearing emphasis on a Vision of the future, is that it can make today’s work seem to be of minimal importance, and can actually devalue it. We can fail to see “what’s the use?” within the work we do today, if all we talk about is how great things will be when change kicks in and we arrive at tomorrow.

This is where managing steps in and engages with vision in the best possible way: It connects today with tomorrow within the playground of workplace productivity, and it values the work being done right now. Managing smartly also makes the vision appear to be reasonable and highly achievable.

One of the best things a manager can do for their people is to appreciate the work they are currently engaged with in the here and now, elevating the importance of every effort they make, every conversation they have, and every task they complete. No one ever wants to feel the work they do is irrelevant or for naught, and while peer appreciation is important, managers have more credibility with assigning worth to work than they realize they do.

We have defined management as the channeling of workplace energies into optimal productivity: Alaka‘i managers capitalize on the best their people have to offer today, appreciating their strengths and their effort to deploy those strengths in whatever avenue presents itself as a road to the future.

Be Biased Toward a Sense of Urgency

Now make this real. Get this distinction of leading with vision and managing with vision to work for you in your own workplace by adding your detail.

What is the vision you are currently working on within your workplace? How will it cause change, and in what increments?

How do you, as an Alaka‘i manager lead with that vision?
Be specific about the deliverables you will receive within the change you champion. Are you insisting on greatness?

How do you, as an Alaka‘i manager manage with that vision?
Again, be specific. This time, be specific about the worth of the systems and processes you are engaged in right now. Why are they worthwhile? Does everyone understand the connections, and have you appreciated the right efforts enough? If you discover you cannot make a process connect to any current vision, you have a sacred cow on your hands ”“ eliminate that process immediately, for it is unworthy of your people and another moment of their efforts. You cannot allow it to drain any energy.

In both leading and managing, my advice to you is to be biased toward a sense of urgency: The future need not be that far away. It could be tomorrow. It could even be the end of today.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?

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

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” August 2009
The Leadership/Management Partnership Toward Vision


  1. says

    I have been a silent follower of the Talking Story for a year now and really love not only your perspective on leadership and coaching but relish learning new and different attitudes lived and practiced in your culture. More than even the Zen and Taoist frameworks that have so influenced my thought process and coaching style, the Aloha way, the Ho’ohana way, the deep seated philosophy of your Island home have a holeness and rightness that blows me away! Thank you for your blog and thank you for bringing this to the world.
    Kris Girrell, Sr. Partner, Camden Consulting Group, a CPI Partner, Boston, MA

    • Rosa Say says

      Mahalo nui Kris! Thank you so very much for this gift today, for that is what your decision to break your silence and comment here on the blog is to me – a gift of the very best kind!

      You mention something which I dearly love about culture: It is heavily influenced by our sense of place, yet it is equally influenced by the universal nature of our shared humanity. No matter how differently we grow up (or live daily) we can always connect with each other, and share in the remarkable abundance of living and working together.

      Where you are – Boston – holds some precious memories for me, and I love this very warm thought that I have a new friend and fellow coach living with the Aloha spirit there! I hope we hear more from you as specific thoughts might resonate.


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