Leading from the Front … Leading with Vision

Leadership vs. Management, on Flickr

Photo Credit: Leadership vs. Management, on Flickr

Leading from the front requires leading with vision!

Engaging the question, “Why does vision matter?” Burt Nanus offers the following reflection:

Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead form the front. Effective leaders don’t push or production their followers. They don’t boss them around or manipulate them. They are out front showing the way. The vision allows leaders to inspire, attract, align, and energize their followers—to empower them by encouraging them to become part of a common enterprise dedicated to achieving the vision.”

In this brief post I encourage you to consider whether you’re leading from the front or whether you’re leading from behind. Are you calling people to an inspiring vision of what can be, or are you pushing and prodding followers to do what they really are not committed to already?

Vision helps to motivate followers intrinsically rather than extrinsically. Vision helps to lead from the front!

Leadership & Management

Lead the Way

Photo Credit: 3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept, Scott Maxwell, Flickr

The conversation surrounding leadership and management is an important one. While management was a major emphasis in the 20th century, focusing on stability and control, leadership has come to the forefront later in the 20th century and into our current time. In contrast to stability and control, leadership emphasizes valuing change, valuing people, empowerment of people, and the central place of relationships in organizational life.

Leadership and Management Described

John Kotter provides a helpful overview of the distinction between leadership and management. Management’s orientation around stability and control is characterized by dimensions such as (a) planning and budgeting, (b) organizing and staffing, and (c) controlling and problem-solving. leadership’s orientation around people, empowerment, and relationships is characterized by (a) direction-setting, (b) aligning, and (c) motivating.

Processes vs. People

While management focuses on stability and efficiency of processes, leadership focuses on navigating people and systems toward change and insuring that the team or organization is focused on the right things. The language of processes and people is also helpful. Management tends to be more process and object focused; leadership tends to be more people and human resource focused.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

The temptation is to raise one of these as more important than the other. Organizations and followers need both stability (management) and change (leadership). Organizations and followers need both efficiency (management) and effectiveness (leadership). In contrasting the two, I think my natural tendency is to focus on the big picture and whether or not we are making progress toward the right goals for our community. Because of this, I need to regularly and intentionally ensure that the managerial side of my departments is not being lost in the leadership emphasis.

Pursuing Both in Your Practice

Whether we tend toward leadership or management, we need to remember that our organizations need both. Make sure that you know your tendency so that you may give attention to balancing this out in your own practice and through the diverse people brought onto your team.

Organizational Culture vs. Organizational Identity

It is vital that organizational leaders understand the distinction between organizational identity and organizational culture.

Organizational Identity is the visible and public dimension of an organization. It is captured by what is included in its public documents, websites, and public forms of communication.

Organizational Culture is the deeper essence of the organization, often present at the unseen or unconscious levels of organizational life. In his book Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar Schein argues that organizational culture is essentially “…the accumulated shared learning of a given group” and “its pattern of shared, taken-for-granted basic assumptions.”

With this distinction of organizational identity as a public dimension and organizational culture as a sometimes unseen dimension, I use the iconic metaphor of an iceberg to capture this thought and distinction. Leaders who are only paying attention to the organizational identity that is above the waterline might inadvertently collide with the underlying organizational culture. Leaders must pay attention to both dimensions—both above and beneath the waterline.

Photo Credit: IMG_2863, by ravas51, Flickr

Photo Credit: IMG_2863, by ravas51, Flickr

Leaders must not only be aware of and communicate the public identity of their organization, they must also be aware of how this stated identity is either ALIGNED OR MISALIGNED with the actual organizational culture.

Organizations sometimes assert organizational identities that are more aspirational than actual. In one sense, this is helpful. We want to strive for improvement as individuals and as organizations. The leadership danger, however, is when the gap between aspirational identity and actual culture is unseen by the core leaders of the organization.

As leaders, we need to raise our awareness of where organizational identity and culture are aligned and where they are misaligned. Where there is alignment, let’s celebrate and tell the story. Where there is misalignment, let’s lead our communities toward our organizational aspirations with visionary determination.