The Differences between Leadership and Management

May 19, 2008 1 comment

First lets start with an old standbyfrom On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis:

  • Managers administer, leaders innovate
  • Managers ask how and when, leaders ask what and why
  • Managers focus on systems, leaders focus on people
  • Managers do things right, leaders do the right things
  • Managers maintain, leaders develop
  • Managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust
  • Managers have a short-term perspective, leaders have a longer-term perspective
  • Managers accept the status-quo, leaders challenge the status-quo
  • Managers have an eye on the bottom line, leaders have an eye on the horizon
  • Managers imitate, leaders originate
  • Managers emulate the classic good soldier, leaders are their own person
  • Managers copy, leaders show originality
  • Managers administer, leaders innovate
  • Managers ask how and when, leaders ask what and why
  • Managers focus on systems, leaders focus on people
  • Managers do things right, leaders do the right things
  • Managers maintain, leaders develop
  • Managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust
  • Managers have a short-term perspective, leaders have a longer-term perspective
  • Managers accept the status-quo, leaders challenge the status-quo
  • Managers have an eye on the bottom line, leaders have an eye on the horizon
  • Managers imitate, leaders originate
  • Managers emulate the classic good soldier, leaders are their own person
  • Managers copy, leaders show originality

In short managers supervise and control resources while making and following plans, whereas leaders transcend resources and plans by influencing and inspiring. Managers are often leaders but the converse of this does not have to be true, many talented leaders are not particularly good at supervision, stewardship or planning, but they can influence and inspire.

One of my favorite measures of a leader is the simplest one of all – leaders have followers – irrespective of title, rank or position – they have and gain followers who are inspired or influenced by what they say and how they act.

To close I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite thinkers on the management and leadership:

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

Categories: management Tags: ,

Good video on the future

I am a huge fan of TED talks and I am constantly looking for more video which is both educational and entertaining. Today I ran across (via browsing on my Apple TV, love that thing) a set of talks from “The New Yorker Conference Stories From the Near Future” and they hit the sweet spot for entertainment and mental stimulation.

So far I have made my way through watching:

A talk from Malcolm Gladwell on hiring and the issues with mismatches in the way we filter and assess people for new work. As always he shared ideas which really altered my way of thinking by questioning some fundamental assumptions we all make about how we discern the best candidates for jobs.

A talk from Eric Haseltine the former chief technology officer of the U.S. intelligence community. His was a really cogent talk on how we need to change our current processes and methods for dealing with the new security situations we face and how we need to focus on ideas as the new battlefield and not on being a bigger, badder elephant. I really enjoyed this talk as it showed to me that some people in our defense establishment may actually understand the nature of the opponents we face.

There were many other good talks and interviews. Check it out.

Categories: Education, Planning Tags: ,

Qualities and Practices

I have been thinking a lot about the Qualities and Practices I work to inculcate into my teams.  I think I have boiled them down to the following:

  • Trust & Cohesion – Concord and trust amongst our team underlie everything.
  • Agility – The ability to rapidly and easily re-orient our people, ideas and technology to adapt and shape our environment.
  • Initiative –  The tendency to start an action, including coming up with a recommendation and giving or helping without first being requested to do so.
  • Effectiveness & Efficacy  – We can quickly and efficiently realize the correct aim and focus in times of ambiguity, confusion and rapid change.
  • Focus & Direction –  All other activities of the group must support it and the people conducting these activities must understand what the main effort is know that they must support it.
  • Management Intent –  A concise, unambiguous statement of an assignments purpose and the desired end state. It may also include an assessment of the acceptable work effort and risk.
  • Leadership & Culture – Assignments via task description and management intent in order to enable responsibility, accountability, initiative and trust. We focus on improving our culture, disseminating our ideals and best practices.
  • Harmony & Communication – We work together, we ensure that we stay aligned by constantly communicating with each other, we collaborate and constantly seek to improve our means and methods.
  • Amazing Projects –  We only work on projects which are amazing, therefore we make all assignments amazing.
  • Responsibility & Accountability – We empower each person to be both responsible and accountable for the success of their projects and assignments. We hold them accountable by describing unambiguous outcomes via management intent and concise assignments.

The above is a work in progress, however I am generally happy with the compactness and spirit of the language. I generally think any policy worth having has to fit on a 3 by 5 card.

Categories: management Tags: ,

Long Now Foundation has seminars…

Many of you are probably aware of the Long Now Foundation. What you may not be aware of is that they host seminars on long term thinking, and that many of them are available online. I am particularly interested in this talk by Vernor Vinge on What Happens if the Singularity Does NOT Happen and this talk by Nassim Nicholas Taleb on our Crazy Future.

Check it out: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/

Categories: Planning Tags:

Strategy: A definition

April 28, 2008 Leave a comment

Strategy is one of the most difficult and misused terms used in business and indeed life. When most people think of strategy they have a hazy view that may involve wars and conflicts, perhaps they have some knowledge of strategic visionaries from the past like Sun Tzu or Clausewitz.

But normally when they think of a strategy to solve some problem most people think of either (1) tactics or (2) plans, neither of which are in fact strategies. So the question is then what is Strategy?

If we take one of my favorite strategists definitions we read it as:
“Strategy is a mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests. ” Taken from John Boyd’s presentation Strategic Game of ? and ? page 58.

The above statement is very compact and contains some very decent guidance therefore I suggest you read it again.

Inherent in this statement is the idea that a strategy is intended to help you create a specific future, which you must by necessity specify at a given time. This future is then achieved by focusing on intentions and aims not goals. In order for these intentions to continue to be efficient, effective and efficacious they to have to change as you realize the consequences of new events and contending interests require your adaptation.

Perhaps the future you want to realize is not the future you actually want, but is in fact a moving target (like so much of life). Therefore your strategy has to be flexible enough to accept that the future you are aiming at will change and that the environment you operate in will change.

And how do you deal with this change?

Categories: Strategy Tags: ,

Skills Acquisition

April 21, 2008 Leave a comment

This post is a work in progress for an article about how people develop and acquire skills and what skills are particularly important for software developers…

Before we start with the specifics it is useful to examine the higher order ideas of skill acquisition and then apply those to the skills germane to software developers. A useful framework to describe this process is called the Dreyfus Model.

This model segments up the different stages of skill acquisition into distinct levels: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. As we progress through the levels of capability with a given skill we move from having our analysis and actions governed by rules, to using nuanced conditional rules, to using varying levels of pattern matching, to finally fully internalizing our experiences into invariant mental representations. Experts then match these patterns against what they observe and then intuit the correct action.

The result is that experts develop an intuitive understanding of a given skill and corresponding domain. One of the interesting consequences for domain experts is that they often have difficulty explaining why they know what will happen and why they should do what they are going to do. This difficulty is caused because experts use their intuition to both understand and solve problems. Experts are often struck by certain knowledge that what they are going to do will work, but not know why. A second notable byproduct of increased skill maturity is an increase in the practitioners sense of inborn responsibility to their craft and the job at hand. True experts can usually be recognized by both their sense of responsibility and their intuitive understanding of their craft.

It is also important to recognize that experts are often the worst teachers of novices. Both novices and experts process information in very different ways: novices need rules, experts need concepts and contexts. Techniques that work when teaching a novice are maddening to an expert, and vice-versa.

The five skills or domains used during the development of correct, quality software are: analysis, specification, design, implementation, and testing. Three additional skills crucial to working in a team are: communication, documentation and planning. Growth in each of these areas is required to mature developers from novices to experts and should be used to measure the progress of developers as they expand their responsibility and influence within their teams and broader organization.

In conclusion we must focus on specifying experiences, capabilities, and responsibilities which will implicitly cross cut against the skills we desire and which we believe will have inculcated the level of maturity needed to perform the job being proffered.