I believe that every job has a potential for practicing leadership. Leadership, as you would recall, is resolving the paradox in favour of leading vis-a-vis managing.( for more clarity read my blog on http://hrdiary.blogspot.com)
Because every job has a mix of managing and leading, every executive has to resolve this paradox, if not every day, at least every month. And you must resolve this paradox and develop the skills of leadership in your current job, because you need to be ready when the 'moment' comes. Any skill takes a long time to build and today is the time to practice it.
Let us remember five distinctions of managing versus leading that can be applied to your current job
- Managing is maintaining the present, while leading is protecting the future
- Managing is acting for immediate & medium-term benefits, while leading is acting for long term benefits
- Managing is doing 'what can be done', leading is done 'what should be done'(Peter Drucker deals with this very beautifully)
- Managing is doing the appropriate things, while leading is doing the right things
- Managing is behaving legally, while leading is behaving ethically
Even a junior programmer, working in a sofware company, has a potential to practice leading. When he writes a code for his customer, either he can 'hard-code' everything and get the work out in a jiffy. Or he can think ahead and 'soft-code' so that the person who is maintaining the code finds it easier to do his work.How does he resolve this paradox?
If he resolves it in favour of 'leading', he has to learn the skills of doing the new task. How does he convince his boss and colleagues of his way? How does he deal with their objections? If he does not managing to convince, how does he still go his way without making them feel guilty? How much of additional effort/time can he afford to spend if his team does not agree with him?
If he resolves it in favour of 'managing', he still needs to answer many questions for himself. Is he getting worried about ruffling the feathers of his folks ? Or is it due to lack of time at that particular moment which he does not have? Or is he avoiding this resolution because it never occurred to him that a paradox existed?
A simple act of resolving the paradox of leading versus managing actively raises lots of questions with which he has to engage. And this engagement with real situations helps him build the the skill of leadership. As you would notice, this skill involves both the skills: the skill of noticing and resolving the paradox as well as the skill of carrying out the decision, be it the decision of managing or leading. Both the decisions carry an emotional impact, which if dealt appropriately, causes lot of learning.
In this part, we have dealt with the first step of finding leadership potential in your job: the step of why to take the effort of resolving the paradox in your job. In the second part, we shall take an example of a job position and write down the different 'places/events/situations' where the person in that job position can practice leadership. See you next week.