Stay loose, be clear…Stay loose, be clear

This is the leader-manager’s dilemma.

John Kotter makes a distinction between leaders’ and managers’ focus. Leaders’ domain is complexity, identifying opportunity, scanning the environment and spurring change to address it. They’re focusing on answering, “What’s right for this organization?”

Managers (paraphrasing Kotter) are focused on answering, “How do we do this right?” They stand out as the ones who can make the most of the system or develop new systems to get the most out of people and processes in ways that are repeatable and motivating. I’ve met a few of these geniuses of consistency and operational clarity. They always open my eyes to the profound value of managing.

You can disagree with Kotter if you like, but practically speaking, every manager needs to be an operational genius all day long and still provide leadership. The ambiguity that comes with steady change means that there is no steady state or equilibrium that we can call rest. The chances that we’re going to end up back in that comfortable position again are nil.

Every one of us have to be leaning forward and sniffing the air for change. Stay loose, be clear is my advice to myself as we begin to hire folks and create a training SWAT team, so to speak.

What do you tell yourself to keep your eyes on being a both a leader and manager every day?

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