Management and Leadership

Last Saturday was our Council’s annual University of Scouting. I conducted the session for committee chairs, as mentioned in an earlier post. About twenty fine Scouters were in attendance bright and early, and I hope I didn’t put anyone back to sleep.  It was nice to see everyone, and we had some great questions and observations. As usual, I tried to fill the hour with more material than would fit, and I apologize for  having to cut it short. As promised, though, here is some of what I had hoped to cover.

I left everyone with the idea that leadership is service – a leader exists to serve others. Your job as a leader is to provide what others need to succeed. You make it possible for others to realize their potential.

First, however, it’s important to understand the difference between leading and managing. Dave Logan (bnet.com), quoting Harvard management professor and author Dr. John Kotter, reminds us that management is about systems, processes, checklists, and formulas, while leadership is about alignment, vision, setting direction. Management produces predictability and order, while leadership produces change, often to a dramatic degree. Management without leadership almost never produces high performance.

A great illustration of that concept in practice is the current television series Undercover Boss on CBS-TV. CEOs of large corporations, who are used to managing from the top down and concern themselves with chasing the numbers and making plan, are thrust into the world of the front-line employees, where they get a first-hand look at how the company really works, and what their customers see. Each episode ends with the CEO transformed into a more empathetic leader, providing the things that the employees need to do their jobs better in both their work and personal lives. (Full disclosure: I am employed by CBS Television but my employment in no way influenced my citing the program here.)

Just as the corporate CEO reinvents himself to be a better leader, you can reinvent yourself and your committee for higher performance to lead with great management.

This goes hand-in-hand with the need to avoid top-down thinking. In a top-down organization, information flows up and directives flow down. The national BSA organization, for some very good reasons, functions in top-down mode. It receives the results of research and feedback from councils and committees, and produces program and procedure for everyone to follow. At the unit level we are sort of caught in the middle between the top-down organization of BSA and our units, which should be run collaboratively and cooperatively in order to implement national’s program and policies according to BSA’s unchanging values. Fortunately, our committees are not so deep in hierarchy that we need to be too concerned with a top-down management style. Still, we need to be careful in order to keep from becoming too top-down in our dealings with the committee. We can do this by giving others ownership of the processes they are responsible for, by listening to what they need and providing it.

In installments to come, I’ll cover some of the other ways you can improve your leadership and management skills.


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