Seth Godin: Managers Are Not Leaders

Seth Godin posits in his book Tribes that managers are not leaders. He says managers manage by using the authority the factory has given them; that leaders don’t care much about organization and authority, they use passion and ideas to lead people. Later, Godin provides an example of a researcher at the Pentagon who acted as a leader and changed the way generals think about the military. If this can be done at the bottom, it can be done in the middle.

Managers must lead. They cannot let the organization constrain them. They must know the environment they manage in and figure out how they can make change effectively. It takes a lot to know the game and not get wedged in by it. Managers must transcend their organization and lead creatively.

If you are a manager caught in the chaos of an organization, step back.

Think strategically about how the change you want can happen. Consider the hinges that keep the organization together and which ones can be moved. Who are the movers in your organization? How do they make change? What is the language of change in your organization — profit? savings? bottom line? competitive edge? How does the change you want to see get communicated in that language? What is within your control and what is not? Do you have allies? Can you create a tribe to lead the change? Is there a tribe working against you?

Know your boundaries. Is the change you seek essential to your work? Will harm be done if it is not made? Can you live without it? How far are you willing to go in seeking it?

Act. Without leading, you atrophy. Leading requires agile, savvy steps. Keep your focus on people and results. Change the organization you are managing in by leading.

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