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An Absolute Necessity

A mentor of mine has always challenged me that I cannot manage or lead people from where I wish they were, but that I must manage and lead them where they are. I believe this is a real problem in leadership circles. We lead people from where we wish they were. That means we have a tendency to point instead of being engaged.

For years, the Gallup organization has been conducting an annual survey of U.S. employee engagement. Gallup’s most recent poll reveals that only 36% of employees are engaged at their jobs. Worse, 50% are disengaged and 15% are non-participatory. You must be engaged to build engagement.

Leading and managing equals accountability. There is a reason why you are the leader. Hopefully, a large part of it is because you know where the company is supposed to go, and you have plans and abilities to get there. If that is the case then you must help them by setting the general direction of their work, ensuring that it is aligned with and understood by their peers, and stay informed enough to identify potential obstacles and problems as early as possible. You must help them ensure that their reports/team members one level below are managing their people too.

I feel confident to speak to a particular issue because of my own age. Just because someone is in their 40s, 50s, or 60s and has lots of experience does not mean they have no need of management. That’s a misunderstanding of management. Management is not a form of punishment or a sign of lack of trust. It is actually a benefit of direction and guidance. The best athletes in the world pay others unbelievable amounts of money to coach them. Why in the world would you think the head of marketing or sales doesn’t need coaching?

As I mentioned, managing successfully has several components:

  • Helping them set the general direction of their work.

  • Ensuring that their work is aligned with and understood by their peers.

  • Staying informed enough to identify potential problems and obstacles as early as possible.

  • Coaching leaders to improve themselves behaviorally to make it more likely that they will succeed.

This all can be difficult, because leaders often have far too little understanding of what their personnel are working on. We fall into the trap of thinking we can’t manage without communicating mistrust. That is not true. Trusting someone is not an excuse for not managing them for the good of everyone. It is not micromanagement to help team members for whom we are responsible establish a direction and stay on top of how they are progressing. This is the way to individual and team success.

Leading plus management equals accountability. How does that play out?


Many people think that leading and managing are one and the same. But they are wrong. Leadership has a completely different skill set from management. Leadership is about the people. It is about inspiring your employees and motivating them. It is painting the vision of the company that is clearly discernible to them and creating excitement and desire to see that vision through. Leaders work on the business. They are the designers, the thinkers, the planners, and they own the vision. They provide clear direction to their people and create openings for them to own it too. Leaders clarify and make the dream seem attainable.


Management is more about the business component. Management is all about getting the essential work done, providing direction for employees to follow with an emphasis on the bottom line. Leaders make the dream seem attainable, and managers make the dream a reality. Managers are the builders, the doers. The mantra is that leadership is envisioning, management is execution. Effective mangers communicate well by clarifying expectations and setting specific directives that will get the job done.

As vital as both of those two actions are, they are worthless without the third:


Accountability is often portrayed as a negative word. It is NOT. It is a happy word because it enables the job to get done and people and their efforts to be celebrated. Accountability is the end result of the specific jobs that leaders and managers do. When things go wrong or assigned work does not get done, many people will pass the buck. It’s hard to be held accountable for our choices, especially if those choices lead to failure or a negative outcome. Often those in supervisory positions will try to use reward and punishment systems in order to spur their people into action and make them more accountable.

The best motivation for accountability at any place in the company is intrinsic. If you are strongly motivated from the inside to do a job well and complete it in a timely, professional manner, you will do more for yourself than a non-intrinsically motivated person who hears several motivational voices and knows rewards are promised. Let that be you.

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