I have a few Pluralsight courses on leadership and management. Or, should I say, leadership OR management:
I want to distinguish between leaders and managers. You can have a leader who is a manager, of course. And, you can have a manager who is a leader. But I wouldn’t say leadership and management are the same thing.
Without writing volumes about it, let me suggest that one major difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader has a bigger vision. A see-over-the-horizon vision. This is someone who dreams big and doesn’t worry as much about putting the vision into practice as a manager would. And rightly so… it is the manager’s job to actually take the vision and make it happen.
This is not a low blow to managers, by the way. The skills required to be an excellent manager are hard to find. Someone who can work with teams, people, contractors, manage customer expectations, etc. This is a lot of work that needs precision, care, and thought.
I was once working with an HR manager who was definitely a manager. She had a lot of plates spinning. She was over a robust and busy recruiting department, and worked with department heads on their complex personnel issues. You know, all the normal stuff you would expect an HR manager to do. But there was something special about her. I caught glimpses of it here and there, and couldn’t really put my finger on it until one day, in her office.
She was explaining to me some of the projects she was working on. I was impressed with her subject matter expertise, and passion. But then she started talking about something that surprised me. She was tying her projects, her HR objectives, into the organization’s objectives and vision. Not in a way that paid lip service, but in a way that showed she was absolutely onboard with the vision set up by the executive team. As she explained the overall vision, and her vision to fit in, I really was amazed. In my mind I switched from “this is a manager” to “this is a leader who is also a great manager.”
For decades I’ve heard that HR leaders want “a seat at the [executive] table.” They want to be respected along with other C-level executives. Too often, though, they have been excluded. It might be because of some of the stereotypes HR has. It might be because some HR professionals have worked their way up the ranks but have no formal or continuing education in HR. It could be that HR comes to the table advocating for things for employees without seeing the bigger picture that is usually driven by the P&L.
When I met with this HR manager, though, I thought she deserved a seat at the table. She talked about executive things. She aligned with the executive’s vision, way more than I have ever seen from an HR person. She was visionary and strategic.
I think part of this happened because that is how she thinks. But part, I’m sure, happens through self-learning. There is no shortage of excellent books that you should have on your nightstand. Some of these might include:
Good to Great
The Lean Startup
Built to Last
Made to Stick
Include any number of biographies on business leaders, from Welch to Jobs to Eisenhower. And, books about people who are excellent in their fields, from politicians (people skills) to scientists (overcoming odds) to athletes (practice and drive).
Learn from people and companies who have shown excellence. What a great opportunity we have to do that through books and documentaries.
They say who you surround yourself with is who you become. Why not choose to be surrounded by leaders in various fields, and learn how to think strategically?
This is your continuing education. Get on this path and people around you will take notice.