Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
February 2006
  


Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

Individual Mentoring or Custom In-house Group Programs

Publishing and Speaking

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In Michael Shenkman's book The Arch and the Path we see how great leaders embark on a strenuous life path in order to transform mere possibilities into more expansive and encompassing opportunities for all. Shenkman vividly portrays how the life of leading is a journey of the mind, heart and spirit that is like no other.

Buy this book!

   Managing vs. Leading

The Arch of Leadership
Does Your Company Have the Leadership Difference?

Q & A with Michael
(based on an interview in Albuquerque Magazine)

Question: It’s commonly assumed that any successful company will include a team of managers who run a tight, efficient ship. But you’ve stated that management and even efficiency are necessary, but not enough. Tell us more.

Michael: It’s a mistake to believe that “efficiency” will automatically make a company great. Too often efficiency may contribute to the bottom line in the short run, but that “lean and mean” mentality can be taken too far. Companies that cut too close to the bone and have everyone absolutely cranking to the max 8 to 10 hours a day have no room for innovation. Companies that lock down their processes to the last nut and bolt find change very costly and even more risky.

What you need is a balance. Every good leader will tell you that success is impossible without good managers. And, yes, it is also true that you can’t change what you can’t measure.

Still, companies need some slack, some redundancy, even some chaos here and there. Slack gives people time to experiment, to try things. Redundancy means people can be taken off the line for learning and training, and for some that may also mean promotion or a change in assignment. Chaos – not too much, just a bit – keeps people on their toes.

Michael ShenkmanQuestion: You talk about a “leadership difference,” the idea that a well-led company is different from a well-managed one. Is that the message?

Michael: That’s part of it. Well-managed companies incrementally improve processes and gain efficiencies. That’s a good thing to do. But well-led companies do that and more. They improve, but they also change. A well-led company is ready, primed for change. It pushes for change. That’s because people want to lead something – a new project, a new product, a new organizational plan.

It takes leaders, at the top of course, but all throughout the company too for that kind of culture to be established. Change is exciting but let’s face it, change is also scary. It makes people fearful and anxious. Too much change and people bolt; no change and people are bored. Leaders figure out the “temperature” that’s just right for their company’s pace and depth of change. I call this the “Goldilocks Principle.”

Question: Can all companies achieve this well-led status?

Michael: Maybe but I doubt it. The fact is, some companies just don’t need to change at the pace and the depth that require leaders. I’m thinking of bureaucracies, companies in very mature industries, sales organizations, and companies that want to be bought. These kinds of organizations may not want leading to be let loose, they may really want a tight ship that makes profits off of efficiencies and throws lots of cash to the bottom line.

Then, there are a lot of companies out there that NEED to be led, but aren’t. Such companies include those facing fierce competition, that make products dependent on fast-changing technologies, and that provide complex services. You get the picture.

The problem is leaders don’t grow on trees. And they can’t be cranked out of business schools. Leading is a calling that needs attention, nurturing and mentoring. Finding leaders is truly difficult, and risky. And most businesses, intent on driving the bottom line as fast and as efficiently as possible miss the leaders right in their midst, promoting instead the fast-paced, hard-driving manager.

Question: How does Arch’s “leader mentoring” help its clients become well-led companies?

Michael: Our clients, first of all, are organizations that care about leading as well as managing from the start. I can’t convince a hard-nosed manager that our kind of program is worth it. The leaders in our client companies already know they have to drive results and the bottom line, but they also know they need to nurture and mentor prospective leaders. They hire us to make sure this happens.

We do several things for them: We provide a professional course of leader development that is highly individual where we take a prospect through all of the steps of inquiry and self-examination necessary to see themselves as leaders. We also provide a safe place, built on confidentiality and patient, attentive listening. Our mentees get to ask questions they can’t ask an in-house mentor, someone who may someday be their boss.

Question: What you say makes so much sense. Why isn’t every company following this advice?

Michael: Because still the issue of developing leaders is frequently seen as “important” but not “urgent.” They don’t see a direct connection to the bottom line.

For me, though, the math is easy. For a full blown mentoring program for 8 –12 executives, we cost no more than what a mid-level manager costs. One great benefit of having leaders developed internally is that they stay with the company. When the need comes to fill new executive positions, as the company grows, they’re right there, ready to assume new responsibility. Hiring a search firm for one executive costs a lot more than we do, sometimes twice or three times the amount.

But the payoff doesn’t show on a balance sheet. All that shows is the cost for the program. There’s a lack of a huge cost for headhunters of course but lack of a huge cost does not show.

And there are more benefits than the absence of that cost, none of which show up on a balance sheet either: the ability to change; clarity of market position; retention of the best talent, and more. All these flow from leading.

If you want to see how many benefits there really can be, take a quick quiz on our Arch website called the “Leadership Difference.” There you’ll get the full picture of what a well-led organization is like. You can even measure how well your current company stacks up on the question of leading vs. managing. Maybe you’ll decide that professional mentoring is exactly the right investment for your company at this critical time.

Click here for The Leadership Difference: http://www.archofleadership.com/resources/quizintro.htm 

Web: http://www.archofleadership.com