Managers do things right

Based on in-depth interviews by the Gallup organization of over 80.000 managers in over 400 companies —the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, Marcus Buckinggam and Curt Coffman, First, Break all the rules: What the world’s greatest managers do differently.

“Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing”. Conventional wisdom is proud of maxims like this. As we mentioned earlier, it uses them to encourage managers to label themselves “leaders”. It casts the manager as the dependable plodder, while the leader is the sophisticated executive, scanning the horizon, strategizing. Since most people would rather be a sophisticated executive [mucho Cacique y poco indio, dice la sabiduría criolla] than a dependable plodder, this advice seems positive and developmental. It isn’t: it demeans the manager role but doesn’t succeed in doing much else. The difference between a manager and a leader is much more profound than most people think. The company that overlooks this difference will suffer for it.

The most important difference between a great manager and a great leader is one of focus. Great managers look “inward”. They look inside the company, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs, and motivation of each person. These differences are small, subtle, but great managers need to pay attention to them. These subtle differences guide them toward the right way to release each person’s unique talents into performance.

Great leaders, by contrast, look “outward”. They look out at the competition, out at the future, out at alternative routes forward. They focus on broad patterns, finding connections, cracks, and then press home their advantage where the resistance is weakest. They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators. When played well, this is, without doubt, a critical role. But it doesn’t have much to do with the challenge of turning one individual’s talents into performance.

Great managers are not miniexecutives waiting for leadership to be thrust upon them. Great leaders are not simply managers who have developed sophistication. The core activities of a manager and a leader are simply different. It is entirely possible for a person to be a brilliant manager and a terrible leader. But it is just as possible for a person to excel as a leader and fail as a manager. And, of course, a few exceptionally talented individuals excel at both.

—Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman [excerpt from the book FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES, what the world’s greatest managers do differently]


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