A Role Model for Your Organization?

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Leadership, Management, Purpose & Direction
Tags: , ,

This is not a role model in the typical sense of the word.  That is, it’s not about a person who serves as an example of the values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with an organization.  This is a model that can be used to explain all the various roles within an organization.

Over time, we have realized that a bit of confusion has been created between the concepts of leader and manager. I myself, contributed to this confusion in 2001 when I facilitated a group of thirteen Directors through a process to design a training program for new managers. The final name of the program – Leadership Journey for New Managers!

The following is a simplified model that can be used to understand and differentiate between the responsibilities of any role.

There are three basic components. Each one is performed to a different degree based on the requirements of the job. For example, a self-employed person who has a small business needs to balance all three out of necessity.  The owner, who is too focused on doing the work (technician), may find that managing (operational) and working on the business (strategic) suffer.

In larger organizations, it is easier to differentiate.  The primary responsibility of the individual who does the work is “technician.”  The main responsibility of the person who plans, monitors, and coordinates the work is “manager.” And the responsibility of setting direction with strategic thinking and planning, is the priority of the “leader,” also commonly referred to as Executive .

When you determine the degree of each responsibility for each position, it is easier to determine the training and development needs for both current and future positions.  Remember, every position uses a combination of all three roles to varying degrees.

Role Responsibility Primary Development
Technician Tactical Technical training
Manager Operational Project & people management
Leader Strategic Strategic thinking, planning, and execution

Is the Peter Principle alive and well? This is a tangential topic but one worth discussing here.  Actually I would argue that each person does not rise to their level of incompetency, they are promoted by others to that level – a small but significant difference.  The reason is that most decisions for advancement are backward looking.  The philosophy that a person must do well or exceed in the current position in order to move to higher position is well intentioned but somewhat misguided.

In sports, a great athlete doesn’t necessarily make a great coach. A great coach doesn’t necessarily make a great general manager, and so on.  There are numerous examples of high performing individuals being promoted to the manager level only to falter because what made them great (technician) is no longer as important a skill.  It may even be a derailer.

Missed opportunity? On the flip side, an employee may have a broad conceptual thinking style and excel at strategic thinking.   If they enter the organization in a “technician” role that requires narrow focused attention for tactical execution, chances for success are slim.  In this scenario, both the employee and company lose.

Incite: Are you clear on the responsibilities associated with the various roles within your organization? When considering someone for a position of greater responsibility, let’s change that to a position that requires a different set of skills and even thinking style, do you focus more on past performance or future fit?   The key to successful hiring, placement, and promotion are your selection, development, and advancement systems.

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