There are many perfectly good managers – indeed some outstanding ones – who never become true leaders. Which is fine, particularly if they’ve made that decision consciously. For those who would like to be leaders (or more distressingly for all concerned, those who believe they are leaders, but aren’t) the reason for failing to make the transition is almost always down to a variant of one blind spot: an inability to transition from ‘or’ to ‘and’.
I notice it all the time in executive sessions – strong managers use the language of ‘or’:
– Do you want me to send this new hire to orientation, or get her started on the big project we hired her for?
– Are we focussing on revenue growth or margin protection this quarter?
– Am I supposed to go to this meeting or sort out that unhappy customer?
…while leaders learn that they have to speak in the language of ‘and’:
– I need you to do this and continue to do that.
– We need to focus on ‘A’ while still delivering on ‘B’.
– Start ‘Y’ and fix ‘X’.
If you want to upgrade your leadership skills, spend a day editing yourself: Where you say ‘or’, think about how to make it an ‘and’.