Leadership and management are different abilities in the same person

“A leader is someone who knows what to do—and then does it.” – Secretary of State James Baker III

A leader inspires people to take a risk. A manager helps people work together. All managers are leaders, and all leaders managers.

Leadership is the ability to inspire people to commit to a big goal, tackle a big project, or take up an important cause. The risk can be a single outcome—to put an American on the moon—or to transform a nation, like Aung San Soo Kyi in Myanmar. Leaders know that what really drives their people is to work with others to make the world a better place.

The heart of leadership: the 3Cs of character

Leadership requires strength of character, having the 3Cs of courage, compassion, and curiosity. We all have these traits, but leadership forces us to develop them:

  1. Curiosity: Leaders innately want to learn new things and see new connections. Curiosity is the wellspring of vision. It’s from curiosity that they identify the risk they want others to help fulfill.
  2. Compassion: Compassionate leaders know why the risk they want others to take is good for employees, the organization, and society. Their compassion makes their vision noble. They cultivate the maturity and patience to transform other’s inevitable resistance to change.
  3. Courage: Churchill said, You must look at the facts because they surely look at you. A courageous are honest about and undaunted by the obstacles, including their own mistakes and flaws, that lie between them and their goal. They are ambitious for their organization. And finally, they’re decisive.

Larry S., a healthcare CEO, demonstrated his leadership character when replacing his hospital building, a $60 million decision. He showed courage in taking the risk, compassion by providing his community a state-of-the-art facility, and curiosity in leading the architects and engineers to a sustainable and cost-effective solution. They won the 2015 Guardian of Excellence Award®.

Communicating with no jargon in sight

Leaders can clearly articulate their answers to the three core questions about risks:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. How will we get there?

Of course, leaders must have great communications skills. Clarity is everything. If you don’t like to write, study great writers. If you don’t like to make speeches, do it anyway. You’ll go nowhere if you can’t convey your vision.

Leadership can only be forged in experience

Leadership can’t be learned from books, in a classroom, or online. But it can be uncovered and developed. Chief executives know they need to develop continuously new managers with leadership ability, so they find the projects and assignments that reveal potential. They then provide the mentoring and support so leadership lessons aren’t lost. One delight of the top job is discovering leadership ability in unexpected places.

How to choose

99% of leadership literature is about how to become a leader, but the most important reason to think about leadership is knowing how to choose them. Our success depends entirely on the leaders we choose: our bosses, customers, vendors, and boards of directors.

List four people upon whose leadership you depend. Do they have the courage, compassion and curiosity to “know what needs to be done and then do it”? Do you know what their vision is? Do they inspire you?

If you want to improve as a leader—and we can all improve—fight for a project that activates your own courage, compassion, and curiosity. If you take a risk, who knows? Maybe more people will turn to you to lead them.

Relevant Terms

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