Feature Post


Management vs Leadership

Is manager same as leader? Is manager always a leader?

"No.", writes Robert Heller in his famous Effective Leadership.

Though, I did read couple of online articles by Robert Heller, this was the first time that I came across the book in City Center Mall, Salimya, Kuwait.

He clearly identifies the leaders among managers as:

  • Administer
  • Originate
  • Develop
  • Inspire trust
  • Think long term
  • Ask what and why
  • Watch the horizon
  • Challenge status quo
  • Are their own people
  • Do the right thing
  • Implement
  • Copy
  • Maintain
  • Control
  • Think short term
  • Ask how and when
  • Watch the bottom line
  • Accept status quo
  • Are good soldiers
  • Do things right
I believe mentoring is a core part of leadership; but that depends, is your manager a leader? Consider yourself lucky if she is, otherwise - find one, or buy this book.

Robert Heller goes into analyzing the role of a manager, and tells a way to improve the standard of quality of a team. He stresses to:
"Ensure that staff are motivated, well managed, and empowered to improve continuously; and the way to do that is to:
  • Train all staff in the skills and capabilities they need to meet their quality targets.
  • Practise two way communication; top-down, and bottom-up, through all available media.
  • Use coaching sessions to mentor as well as teach."
Robert identifies a thought-provoking list of question that a "leader" must ask herself; a couple, as follows:
  • Do I communicate directly with my team?
  • Am I sure that every member of the team understands his/her role fully?
  • Am I setting sufficiently ambitious goals?
I believe the most effective style of leadership is with varying styles, which includes being "Peoples' Person". Which believes on the principle that success flows from team within the team. It seeks to develop a climate of open-ness, and work with-and-for everybody equally.

Contrary to many private IT organizations that "practicing/promoting" the bureaucratic-management work environment in Pakistan especially, Robert encourages:
"Taking into account the feelings of staff when promoting internally".
At this account, I recall my previous boss, Shariq Mirza, a FAST graduate, living in the US for ~18 years now - helping United States Postal Services build great mailing solutions. Surprisingly(well, to my surprise), I have learnt alot from him. Surprised, because I was offshore all the time. I never thought I would get a chance to be mentored; but, lucky for me, the time that I spent with him, in email changes, telecons, personal phone talks, etc, has mentored me far more, has added in me far more "professional decor", compared to the rest I could find in my entire professional career.

I learned alot; I learned about the trigger theory, team management, resolving conflicts, and how to be a team leader; how "leaders cover all the time", and why, "employees leave managers, not companies". I also learned about the green-light red-light approach of gathering requirements and then classifying it down to needs, nice-to-haves, and wishes.

"When everything fails, communicate", is what I tied down in my pallu, and use it often, the day he said that.

If you are manager, or well... a leader, can you guess the reasons of the following few mishaps?
  • Lack of communication, which results in lack of trust
  • Un-gelled team
  • Developer spending more time in heart burn
  • Passive questions/explanation raised by manager
  • Avoiding positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done
The above problems in a team always has a root-cause, a boss who sits in his cubicle, seldom comes out for a talk/discussion with his team; rarely encourages training; doesn't know anything about mentoring. "Use" meaningless statements to down-rate in appraisal; rejects every idea that a developer has to suggest, questioning every request that is made, to reject.

You can't talk to the bureaucratic-management; they have got a virtual firewall built around them, so you would think twice before entering into a discussion with them.

Quite interestingly a resignation letter caught a wild-fired-discussion and gained considerable amount of attention when the resign-ee made the private e-mail exchanges public. A UI Developer Jeff Ammons (at Mahalo.com, then), when requested for resignation to his, quite famous, boss, Jason Calacanis. William Shields, also known as cletus on StackOverflow added his thoughts over the story. A google would reveal the actual email text exchanges.

But is that all fruitful? Does that result in a "gelled-team"? The point that I am trying to make is to gain trust between among the team, and which cannot, and I repeat just to avoid any confusions, "cannot", be achieved without Communications.

So should leadership be expected from a manager?

Good day!