Leaders and managers are often cut from different cloth, as Mike Dawson pointed out in his recent column, “On Leadership and Management.”
However, most of us in business are doing a combination of leading and managing. We may have a leadership moment every so often, but most of the time we are managing the staff that is working on a project. Rather than look to Roosevelts, Churchills or even Lombardis for inspiration, I offer that we do have, close at hand, some living examples of people who are not only great leaders but also great managers.
Put yourself in this position: You and your team are responsible for a weekly, public presentation in front of an educated, discerning audience. Your work must be of high quality—well-done and inspiring. You have only 3 hours a week to get your group prepared. Your group comprises volunteers who can walk out on you at any time—and you dont get to pick the volunteers! Oh, and your pay for the entire year would cover about one-seventh of the cost of an SUV.
People who can do this job exist. They are choir directors. Eastern Connecticut State University Professor Elizabeth Scott has researched choir dynamics and found that choir directors have plenty to teach us. Scott says the leaders role is to get the group into harmony while attending to the needs of each member. Some members have more status than others, some need more attention, some are simply better vocalists. Some members may be the directors superior, and some may be related or have a long history with the organization.
Consider further these traits:
Power: A successful director is a great example of getting, using and retaining power without appearing to have any.
Expertise: This is the source of the directors power. Business leaders must also show mastery of their skill, whether in IT or accounting.
Love of the profession: A directors love of music is contagious. Similarly, a business leader who inspires enthusiasm will make a team more productive.
Sense of humor: A good director can joke and keep everyone at ease.
Sense of direction: Directors always have a plan B and a plan C. This is just as it should be in the business world.
Raising the bar: The director selects a challenging work, endures the disastrous practices and congratulates everyone when the final performance goes well. A good manager sets an ambitious goal and gives the team the credit.
Richard J. Staron is director of IT at the Hartford Public Library. His book, “Guerrilla Oracle: The Succinct Windows Perspective,” was published by Addison-Wesley last year. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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