Does the following script from a recent advertisement sound like your company?
1st employee: Did you hear the news? Our president just left the company and took all our vice presidents with him.
2nd employee: We still have lots of ink for our computer printers.
1st employee: What difference does that make?
2nd employee: Well, which one do you think we're going to miss first?
Would your company miss its printer ink more than its executives? If so, the company is losing out badly on the substantial advantages that effective leadership provides. PrintLink's staffing placements at printing companies throughout the United States and Canada regularly confirm the benefits of a strong leadership initiative. And as a hiring manager, the clearer your understanding of capable leadership, the greater your insight into the best people to hire and the roles you need them to fill. Accordingly, this article, and part two to follow, will outline some of leadership's characteristics, functions, and contributions to a company.
Leadership versus management
Although at all levels leadership and management roles often overlap, they are technically distinct. A time-honored aphorism that sums up the difference between them is: "Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right." Leaders decide on the best course of action to reach a desired goal. Like the lead dog on a sled team, they guide from a directional and strategic perspective. By contrast, management looks at the direction established by leadership and says, "Okay, here's the best way to achieve it."
As an example, consider the construction of a new road. Before construction begins, the leader ensures that the road is necessary and goes in the right direction; then the leader monitors conditions during and after construction to ensure the road remains viable. By contrast, the manager develops and manages a budget and deploys all the construction workers, machinery and tools together in the most efficient way possible to physically build the road.
Generally, at the senior level, leaders focus on the outside world and the larger picture, forge strategies and decisions, then distill them into an organizational plan. Managers, on the other hand, focus inward on the organization and deploy its staff and resources to meet that plan in the most effective way. A directional leadership dynamic also occurs at various lower levels of an organization related to workflow. For example, a team leader in the prepress department is a senior operator designated as the go-to person for technical or procedural expertise.
Understanding the difference between leadership and management roles can make a workplace considerably more productive. "Seven-Habits" sage Stephen Covey tells of one corporate CEO who spent a huge percentage of his time managing his company's day-to-day operations-that is, until he learned the definition of leadership. Afterwards, he left the task of optimizing production efficiency and profitability to his managers and began concentrating on leadership. He devoted himself instead to examining trends and statistics, discovering what his company should be doing to stay competitive down the road, and setting strategic goals. As a result, his company's profits rose more than 50% within a year.
Layers of leadership & management
Investment in defining, hiring, and training a strong leadership team and the layers of management that are valid for your company will very quickly demonstrate a measurable return. Layers of leadership often comprise the following list (in descending order):
- Senior officers (CEO, CFO, COO, President, GM)
- Senior managers (Director or VP - operations, manufacturing, sales)
- Middle managers (Managers-sales, customer service, accounting, IT, production, prepress, plant, maintenance, shipping & receiving)
- Supervisors (all departments, each shift)
- Team leaders (hands-on, go-to people who report to Supervisors or Managers)
Characteristics & functions of leaders
The importance of selecting the right people to fill roles as leaders and managers is enormous. A manager is not necessarily a leader and vice versa. And just because someone is an expert does not mean he or she can fill either role effectively. Although technical proficiency often counts highly to enable leaders to manage processes, there are certain personality traits and capacities that will prove even more essential in determining their success. These include:
Self-awareness is essential for strong, effective leaders and managers, because how they influence others derives from their individual values, perspective, and personality. No specific personality type or leadership style is necessarily better than another. However, all leaders and managers owe it to the company and the people they guide to be clear about what they are doing and what they are good at. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that they take an in-depth, honest look at who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their values and convictions, and how they interact with others.
Leadership cannot exist in isolation; it always needs to be clearly tied to the needs of the company. Therefore, the purpose of having leaders take inventory of themselves is to compare the results to the jobs they are expected to perform. This kind of careful analysis is especially crucial in cases where no one else is going to evaluate their role against their competencies and the needs of the organization, and recommend changes that would benefit the company (and the individual.) The self-analysis can shed light on where to delegate tasks for which they have no talent to someone else who does, or help identify gaps where they need to acquire additional skills. The ultimate goal is to achieve peak performance from both the company and themselves. And because circumstances and roles continually change, leaders and managers need to go through the process of self-evaluation not once, but many times throughout their careers.
The dynamics of leadership are critical to success everywhere - a country, a sports team, a family, an industry, a company. In general we are seeing a greater focus in the printing industry on developing and deploying strong leadership and management teams.
Next, we turn to the numerous assessment tools that exist to assist leaders and mangers in determining their natural strengths and tendencies. The Gallup Strength Profile and Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator are two classics. Another one, Blake & Mouton's Managerial Grid, classifies leaders according to their relative concern for tasks versus their concern for people, and identifies four basic types:
- Authoritarian Leader (high task, low relationship) - Autocratic, task- and schedule-oriented leaders who leave little or no room for co-operation, collaboration, creativity, or debate. When something goes wrong, they tend to focus on casting blame rather than analyzing the problem and how to prevent it.
- Team Leader (high task, high relationship) - People who lead by positive example and foster a team environment in which all members can form mutual bonds and achieve their goals and highest potential as effectively as possible. Normally these types develop and lead some of the most productive teams.
- Country Club Leader (low task, high relationship) - Leaders who predominantly use rewards to maintain discipline and encourage team accomplishments. Typically these types avoid other means of exercising power for fear of jeopardizing their relationships with team members.
- Impoverished Leader (low task, low relationship) - These leaders exhibit a "delegate-and-disappear" style, essentially allowing the team to do whatever it wants. Potentially, they leave other team members vulnerable to a series of power struggles in the absence of consensus.
- In the Structural Framework, an effective leader is a social architect who works by analysis, design, structure, strategy, experiment, and adaptation, while an ineffective leader is a petty tyrant obsessed with details.
- In the Human Resource Framework, an effective leader is a servant and catalyst who supports, advocates, and empowers-someone who believes in people and can communicate that belief. He or she is visible, accessible, shares information, fosters participation and moves decision-making down into the organization. An ineffective leader is a pushover or fraud who relinquishes power and responsibility to others.
- In the Political Framework, effective leaders clarify what they want, assess conflicting interests and power balances, then build coalitions to other stakeholders, primarily through persuasion and advocacy. Ineffective leaders tend to be hustlers who manipulate to get results.
- In the Symbolic Framework, effective leaders are prophets who achieve by inspiring others and view organizations as stages on which to play certain roles. They use symbols to capture attention and communicate a vision. Ineffective leaders are fanatics or fools who resort to smoke and mirrors.
Drive for professional development
Another personality trait of effective leaders and managers is their commitment to continual professional development both for themselves and their staff. Just one aspect of this outlook is making sure the people they promote into leadership or management roles have the tools necessary to achieve success. Especially in internal promotions, new managers frequently struggle to balance old relationships to co-workers with new responsibilities, and it often proves to be a tough challenge. Without appropriate tools, they are being set up to fail-and fail they will. Those tools can consist of training or mentoring, a set of management and measurement aids that are utilized company wide, a forum for leadership team interaction, or the many educational programs and self-study books available throughout North America.
The essential skills that form the basis of leadership and management training are far too numerous to mention. They include everything from defining and managing priorities, statistics and measurement, and strategic and financial planning to continuous improvement, problem-solving, and of course the all-important handling of human resources.
Management's role is to oversee people and process, not work. The people and the process ultimately achieve the work. And although leadership is often equated with mechanical objectives, strategy, and execution, management's ability to deal effectively with budgetary considerations and the staff of the organization is what actually absorbs the most time and is the most essential to achieving results. This means the ability to build and lead or manage a high-performance leadership team and a highly productive organizational culture that makes things happen and enables others to get their jobs done effectively, efficiently, and profitably. Among the elements required to achieve these aims are setting appropriate expectations and goals, mobilizing and coaching people to do the necessary tasks required, and guiding their performance.
Team building and effective delegation
Effective teamwork and delegation don't mean giving every person, every idea, and every interest equal support. Rather, they require treating all staff with equal respect but different expectations for each one based on individual performance, not idealistic beliefs. Managing people properly involves understanding the strengths and weaknesses of individuals within a work team and assigning people tasks for optimal efficiency-just as on a construction site, it would be bad management to have a carpenter and an electrician do one another's jobs. Good managers put people in positions best suited to their skills.
The power of persuasion
One of the most important traits of effective leaders and managers is the ability to get people to work hard for them. This goal can never be effectively accomplished by haggling, cajoling, begging, bribing, bullying, or using any kind of force to gain co-operation. Rather, the single most compelling motivation for people to work and think at their highest levels of performance is the desire to accomplish a worthwhile task. Thus the single most important skill of leaders and managers is persuasion-the ability to persuade other people to embrace their ideas as valuable and work to achieve them, even in the face of adversity. Great leaders and managers create a compelling, inspiring vision and communicate it with passion. In doing so, they often employ such other advanced communication skills as focusing on the interest and concerns of their audience, summarizing their ideas into simple terms that can be communicated easily, and presenting their case clearly. They are also perceived as powerful communicators because they tend to listen more than they speak.
Leading by example
Some of the best managers we've seen at PrintLink are those that lead by example. By investing themselves in being a good role model for their employees, they ensure staff not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see it in action.
Management by walking around
We've said it before, but as an effective leadership technique nothing can replace "management by walking around". It is an essential way for managers to elevate their visibility and participation in the day-to-day business, and to promote an open-door policy for vital two-way communication. Gone the way of the dinosaurs are isolated, corner-office managers-the ones someone from the ranks once referred to as "the carpet people" who never set foot on the shop floor.
Leadership equals trust
In general at PrintLink we are seeing a greater focus in the printing industry on management and supervisory positions-recognizing both the huge importance to a company of managing people and process effectively and also the importance of hiring the right people for the job. More and more companies are looking for leadership abilities at all levels specific to their business. But some have actually starting sourcing candidates outside the printing industry for the very senior roles because they feel that at this point the industry falls short of developing people with those skills. Hence the dire need for printing companies to provide continual professional development both for their new and veteran management.
The most important thing companies have to sell is trust. After all, despite all the available proofing options, print-and-communications solutions are still products you can't see until it is too late. And since ours has universally become a just-in-time industry, absolutely no margin remains for error. More than ever before, buyers of your services need to be able to trust that you as their service provider will ultimately deliver. And their trust cannot be restricted just to your sales rep who calls on them. It must extend to the whole structure behind the sales rep that plans, produces and delivers the product.
The trust model must be turned inward on the company as well to build a strong team that practices what it preaches. If you think of the press room as the customer of the pre-press department or the bindery as the customer of the press room, it becomes clear that the entire company is comprised of its own internal customer-supplier relationships that prosper from a high level of mutual trust. That kind of shared confidence only comes from a team directed by strong managers and leaders. And it returns full circle to achieve the ultimate objective of customer trust for your organization.