June 2, 2014
Do You Spend Too Much Time Managing Instead Of Leading?

Leadership and management skills go hand in hand to make a business owner successful. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they require radically different skill sets. Your business’ success relies on achieving a good balance of both, and neglecting one or the other can make everything fall apart.

Managers orchestrate the day-to-day activities of their organizations, while leaders are concerned with developing and communicating the long-term vision of their companies. While it’s important for your business to run smoothly each day, leaders are responsible for getting everyone working together effectively toward long-term, shared goals.

For instance, Tony Hsieh is a great leader because he clearly communicates and enforces Zappos’ core values. He lives and breathes his founding philosophy of superior customer service, and every aspect of the company, from recruitment to customer service, reflects this.

8 Questions to Test Your Leadership-to-Management Ratio

Too many leaders get bogged down in overseeing daily business operations when they should be functioning as the organization’s compass. To test your own leadership-to-management ratio, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I define my company’s long-term goals? Do I have processes in place to achieve them?
  • Does my team understand our expectations and long-term goals?
  • Am I spending time questioning the status quo and testing new ways of doing things?
  • Do I encourage employees to think independently?
  • Is someone besides me responsible for handling the day-to-day operations of the business?
  • Am I dedicating time to long-term strategic thinking?
  • Are my employees consistently improving in their roles?
  • Do I regularly engage with employees on a personal level?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should re-evaluate how much time and energy you’re putting into managing your employees. Getting caught up in the day-to-day leaves little room to work toward your company’s long-term goals and invest in your business’ growth and strategy.

How to Manage Less and Lead More

As a leader, it can be hard to relinquish control of daily operations and focus on the big picture because you have to trust others to get the job done. However, it’s important to implement strategies that focus on the long-term vision of your organization because these actions are the ones that will ensure survival in a competitive environment.

Your customers don’t care that you implemented a more efficient payroll system. They care about how your business interacts with the world. Try these six strategies to manage less and lead more:

1. Delegate. You hired your employees for a reason, so don’t be afraid to entrust them with your organization’s daily operations. Identify potential leaders within your company — people whom you trust — and allow them to take on some of the day-to-day tasks that eat up a large portion of your time.

2. Challenge yourself and your employees regularly. Challenging new tasks can test people’s skills and spark creativity. You should never settle for the status quo. Success is about reaching past what you can do now and improving your company by improving yourself.

3. Encourage open communication. Try to make yourself accessible to your employees, and solicit feedback on how you can improve as a leader and as an organization. Jack Dorsey, for example, works at a standing desk in the midst of his employees in an open-air floor plan. Opening a clear path for communication will ensure that everyone is working toward the same vision.

4. Explain long-term goals. Effective leaders, like Astro Teller of Google X, can envision long-term goals and prepare for potential setbacks along the way. Teller recently announced that Google X’s new moonshot goals include developing glucose-monitoring contact lenses for diabetics and tackling big world problems like energy efficiency and agriculture. Even when your goals are lofty or far down the road, open communication helps create unity among your team members and make employees’ roles and expectations clear.

5. Provide valuable feedback. By communicating the small changes employees can make to improve, you can transform your company through 1-percent improvements. This principle led the British cycling team, which had previously never won the Tour de France, to the most successful run in modern cycling history.

The team’s general manager, Dave Brailsford, helped his team achieve victory through tiny improvements, such as more ergonomic seats, improved nutrition, pillows that offered more restful sleep and more effective hand washing to stave off infection. On its own, each decision was insignificant, but collectively they made a profound impact.

6. Be transparent about your decisions. Sometimes it’s necessary for leaders to make executive decisions, but if you don’t handle these decisions properly, employees can misunderstand your reasoning or motivations. Being transparent with your actions and decisions and setting the standard for honesty and integrity will encourage others to do the same.

Leadership is about more than just a title. It’s about believing in what you do and getting others to buy into that belief. Leaders who do too much managing often lose sight of the bigger picture. You don’t have to stop managing completely to lead effectively, but you do have to devote time to communicating your vision and laying the foundation for your company’s future success.

Matthew Gordon
Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.