I was recently working with a group of managers at a large manufacturer when a great example of the difference between management and leadership came up.
We were working on an important conversation that needed to happen amongst team members. The manager responsible for that area kept looking at the clock, acutely aware of the pressing operational need to come to a conclusion quickly.
I observed that “the clock is always ticking for managers; but time stands still for leaders”. To achieve the higher level of leadership we need to understand that important things take as long as they take – which *saves* time in the long run.
This can be hard for new leaders to get their heads round, and fair enough. After all, we’ve established ourselves as managers based partly on our ability to deliver on time!
Here’s a quick story illustrating, however, that the same words and concepts come to mean different things as you move up the ladder.
A friend of mine who’s retired recalls that before he went to elementary school, he thought the earth was flat. You look down the street and it’s flat, right? But at school they said the earth was round. So he wrote “The earth is round” and got accepted into secondary school. And at high school, they said that the earth was actually a sphere. So he wrote “The earth is a sphere” and got accepted into university. There, he studied geology and they said that the earth was actually geoid. So he wrote “The earth is geoid” and got his degree.
The right answer isn’t always the same answer as you move through the levels, and grasping that is an early step that you need to make in your transition from manager to leader.
By the way, after his retirement, my friend took an evening class in Classical Civilisation, having always been interested in Ancient Greece – and he discovered that “geoid” means “earth-shaped”.
(I didn’t say that the answer we give always has to be meaningful.)