Friday, October 17, 2008

Leadership and Management - Military and School

An interesting thing about school (specifically management classes) is that we are often told to develop ourselves as leaders. We are taught how to manage, but how to lead is often left to our own doing.

To get the terms straight before discussing further:

Seth Godin describes these in the book "Tribes" as:
1. Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done.
2. Leadership is about creating change that you believe in.

Others say management is doing things right, while leadership is doing the right thing. 

Either way, it can be noted that these terms are not interchangeable, and must be developed by disntinctly different methods.

School: No Leadership Required
  • Concentration is on management. 
  • We learn to manage by getting due dates, project requirements, teams, tests, assignments, incremental tasks to be done
  • Even in group work, can often rely on others to take leadership roles
  • Extra-curriculars such as greek orgs, sports, student groups often used as leadership experience, but no leadership is required to be a follower in any and all of these organizations
TAKEAWAY: Learning leadership at school is a choice. Nobody will make you lead, you must take the initiative.

Military: A Culture of Leadership
  • Leadership starts at the lowest levels, in word and spirit
  • People in positions of power often require the weakest of their subordinates to teach classes on activities, forcing them to develop as leaders or further falter
  • Judged on how you perform individually in areas such as physical fitness, rifle marksmanship, personal growth (schooling, military schooling, correspondence courses, etc). These force leaders to lead by example
  • Initiative and creativity often encouraged to solve abstract tasks such as developing training, completing missions using limited resources, adapting to new conditions. No specific resource, action, outcome style of management as seen and developed through school coursework
  • Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. "LDRSHIP"
  • Entire manual dedicated to leadership and taught at specific schooling for leadership ("Army Leadership: Competent, Confident, Agile"
TAKEAWAY: Management is under-stressed, while leadership culture flourishes

Some questions arise:
  •  How can we incorporate a leadership culture into our schools and workplaces? 
Instilling a culture of leadership requires forcing people to take full responsibility for actions and assessing them as such. For this to be incorporated in schools, heavier weights must be put on group members' assessments of classmates. Opportunities must be given to challenge the status quo. Assignments must be given that force people to mobilize their classmates in an effort to create something that they believe in while working under unknown circumstances. 

Less emphasis needs to be put on incremental non-meaningful changes, and more needs to be put on allowing people to work on what they believe in. Examples I"ve seen are a business plan class that allows your group to work on creating a real business plan (Alan Fine), and an Entre class that forces you to start a small business (Steve Spruth). This could be done in any number of classes. Maybe a journalism class that requires you try to get something published, or a chemistry class that forces you to try to find a way to make something new, etc (note that I have little knowledge of these courses, so I'm sure people in those fields can think of even better ways)

  • Do we need to write new books on leadership and how they affect each industry that we work in? 
Obviously not, they've already been written. We just need to apply the concepts that work.

  •  Is it really necessary to build an entire culture of leadership from the line worker on up? 
That is the only way it will work. Otherwise tomorrow's leaders won't know how to lead, and today's leaders will be gone. If you don't force those that are not strong leaders to do leadership tasks and better themselves, you will lose some of the best leadership potential in your organization.