This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward.

Leadership or Management?

Last November I joined the CTI Leadership Program, and 10 month immersive learning experience to develop the leader in me.

During the program I realised something about myself.

I crave approval.

In traditional learning environments we are given a task, we do it, and we get a grade to tell us how well we did. This holds true for school, university, professional qualifications.

We get an A (hopefully) or a certificate and we feel proud of our achievements. And I realised this last year that I love that. I like to be rewarded with recognition for my efforts and the results that I create. Don’t we all?

Yet in this leadership program there are no grades.

There are tasks. Challenges. Exercises.

Then we debrief. We look at what have we learned? What worked? What was the impact of what we did – and was that intentional?

But never a grade.

Never an “Ok, now you are a good leader.”

My inner school girl was, quite frankly, a little crushed and disappointed. The absence of the judgement of “that’s good, that’s bad” made me realise how addicted to them I am.

Today I connected the dots to what I know about leaders in business: they don’t get this either.

Now of course, leaders in business get measured, and rewarded.

We measure leaders on tangible results:

  • revenue
  • profit targets: EBIT, EBITA or whatever version is holy in your organisation
  • cost cutting

and we reward them for it.

Yet while we may want them to achieve this in an inclusive way, or in a devolved decision making way, we always come back to this:

We judge them on whether they make their numbers.

So it’s hardly surprising that when it’s crunch time, we go for Management over Leadership. Every time.

We go for getting those numbers no matter what. We turn to the short term target and let our plans for long term sustainable growth get pushed aside. Just for this quarter, of course. Just for now, we fool ourselves.

Contrarily, we listen to Simon Sinek, buy leadership books, go to conferences to listen to Obama talk about leadership. Because WE KNOW that when we Lead instead of Manage, it’s easier to get those results. And we get better results.

So why does this happen?

Targets are fantastic tools for driving behaviour. But we can learn from the CTI leadership program about how we assess the efficacy of our KPIs by asking ourselves these questions:

  • What have we learned about using this KPI?
  • What’s the impact of of this KPI? and is this the impact that we want?
  • What’s actually creating the impact we want? (and how might we be sabotaging it?)

What are your thoughts? Join in the conversation and share your views