Leader, Manager, and Coach
Discussions of leadership are often over-analyzed and misunderstood. In academic circles, the term "leader" and "manager" are segmented and precisely defined as unique terms. Scholars would say that leadership is the ability to inspire others to action, while management is the ability to coordinate others' activities. Rarely are these two functions disconnected from one another. Leaders manage, and managers lead.
There are specific skills associated with leadership. A leader must be able to inspire. To be inspirational, a leader must be trusted. To be trusted, a leader must listen to the staff, understand the staff's comments and concerns, and thereafter authentically engage with the staff. The quandary surfaces as the "traits of a natural" leader often do not support effective listening nor authentic engagement. A manager must be organized and have the ability to orchestrate the staff's activities to complete the objectives. They must also understand the staff's functional role to direct the outcome effectively. The quandary surfaces as managerial effectiveness may fail if functional knowledge is not sufficiently present.
Although there are several common traits between a leader and a manager, it is possible for a manager to be a leader and for a leader to be a manager. In a business setting, a successful leader-manager may fulfill the functions of both a leader and a manager in the same manner as performed by a coach. In many respects, a coach is a more accurate description of the leader-manager position given that its role is to inspire, listen, organize, and orchestrate the team's activities to achieve success.
The coach of a sports team creates the strategy that leads the team to victory. The elements of this strategy are similar to that of a business and include the team's vision, mission values, capability assessment of each function, and an analysis of its competitive strengths and weaknesses. Given this information, the team’s coach will identify the structure best suited to win the game, just as the business strategy should be structured to accomplish the group's near-term objective. An objective could be to increase sales volume by 10%, produce financial results in 15 days, add five new branches, or launch a new division. Regardless of the goal, the leaders within the business play a crucial role in absorbing information as well as creating and implementing the plan to achieve their objectives.
The coach skill-set is typically required for an individual to be effective in a C-Level business position. Any person that possesses the complete skill-set of a coach is likely to drive progress for a group of employees. In business, 6 elements are exhibited by successful teams. A team or group of employees are likely to complete the objective successfully when they embrace the following 6 elements, including purpose, priority, duties, communication, dynamics, and measurement of success. Academic research has demonstrated the importance of each of these components.
Purpose defines the group's existence and creates the group member's shared sense of "why" aligned with a firm's vision and mission.
Priority identifies the order by which the group's tasks are organized. The sequencing of the events is of critical importance to ensure group success. It is important to roll up the window before driving into the car wash. While this example seems obvious, it magnifies the importance of defined order and attention to the sequence of tasks to drive success.
Duties include the division of labor and the decision structure for the group. The division of labor is related to the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the group's members and is the basis from which the member's tasks are assigned. Given that the task assignments are based on member competency, if necessary and based on progress measurement, task assignments may be reallocated to other group members, or group members may receive additional training. The division of labor will also identify an organizational structure and create the basis for decision-making, which may follow assigned authority lines.
Communication relates to the communication protocol and frequency as well as how conflict is explored and resolved. The communication protocol identifies how and in what form or multiple forms, communication will occur. Frequency explores the periods between communication events. It could be that communication is perpetual, or daily, or weekly, depending upon the circumstances. Conflict is inevitable among groups of people working together as each member is unique and certain personalities will clash with others. Conflict alone is not destructive and is simply part of being human. How conflict is resolved is the critical variable. The identification of and how the resolution of conflict occurs is an essential component of a successful project. The differences among people should be leveraged and celebrated to identify creative solutions to complex problems, including interpersonal conflict.
Dynamics in a business occurs for a number of reasons, one of which is because of the uniqueness of each individual. Every person is different such that every group of people is unique. This diversity must be explored. People have feelings, unique personalities, and various degrees of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Identifying the interpersonal behavioral dynamics is essential to fostering bidirectional appreciation among participants and leaders. The exploration of the group's behavioral dynamic will result in group norms that build cohesiveness among the group. During this formative process, when a group's norms are created, if an oppressive personality type is present, it should be overtly restrained to allow any timid group members to form transparent connections among the team.
During the formation of group norms, the team either learns to tell the leader the truth or concludes that transparency is dangerous. Leadership personalities impact the formation of truth-telling norms within a group. If the leader has a narcissistic personality type that impedes the ability to listen well, such that information exchange seems only to go one way, employees will likely decide that telling the truth is not useful as nothing comes from them voicing their comments or concerns. Additionally, if a controlling leader "shoots the messenger" via some retaliatory means because they believe that any type of bad information is not acceptable, group members will similarly realize that speaking up could have consequences and be less forthcoming with their honest opinions. These circumstances occur at the opposite ends of the leader's personality trait spectrum and frequently result in catastrophe. This dynamic interaction between the leader and the group contributes to communication ineffectiveness in all forms. A well-structured, agenda-driven meeting where bidirectional dialogue occurs is a sign of a healthy group.
Measurement of success means knowing when to change or stop. Success is achieved when the purpose of any given project has been fulfilled. It is essential to identify the completion point when the group is formed to determine the path forward and to give the group a sense of success when the purpose is fulfilled. Another element within the framework of success to consider is the question of how good is good enough.
When a group completes a task, a post-mortem assessment is useful to identify how to improve the subsequent processes. It is also important to celebrate the completion of the task and the group's success. The "how'd we do" assessment is an opportunity to provide feedback across the group to help improve the subsequent result. This is also a time to identify training opportunities as all group members perpetually enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities. The concept of Kaizen or continual improvement is essential here to protect the success.
The role of a leader-manager is essential to drive success, but rarely will competent management overcome a failed strategy. Similarly, a great strategy can be diminished by poor leadership. The combination of a well-reasoned strategy implemented by a proficient leader-manager will frequently result in success.
A firm’s product or service drives the organizational structure, which defines the requirements of the persons in leadership roles. As a contrasting example, what do the nuclear plant technician and a bank teller have in common? They are both within a highly controlled, hierarchical design due to the risk of being wrong. At the opposite end of the spectrum, what do a software programmer and an NFL Quarterback have in common? They are both parts of a horizontal team where there is a significant degree of autonomy to address circumstances.
The leader-manager dynamic must adapt depending upon the high control vs low control organization structure. Additionally, the organizational oversight of a branch may be different from the oversight of the underwriting function. In every case, the leader-manager must adapt their behavior to meet the employees' needs with the organizational design.
Every leader’s unique personality enhances or detracts from their effectiveness as a leader. A person that is timid and detailed may struggle to inspire the employees. A gregarious and boisterous person may experience a challenge addressing operational details. There is no perfect leader, and every leader may struggle with elements of the position.
The key is to identify the traits of a successful leader, given the circumstances within the firm. The successful sales team leader may possess different characteristics compared to the leader of operations or underwriting. The extent to which there is an association between a boisterous personality being less detailed and an introverted personality being less inspirational has been researched extensively. The essential point is to identify the traits that drive success and place the person with the skills to match the requirement of the position. That said, everyone can learn, and it is possible to teach a dominant personality to be quieter and teach a quiet personality to be heard.
Dr. Schell and the MBS Financial Services team helps firms implement an authentic leadership style.
MBS Financial Services supports the following areas:
Growth Strategy – We can help you plan and execute a growth strategy.
Hedging & Pipeline Risk Management - Dr. Schell can help explain how hedging functions, the benefits of hedging, and the risks associated with the activity. See blog posts.
Technology must align with a firm's strategic objective. Every mortgage lender's technology infrastructure significantly impacts its customer experience and employee workflow. MBS will help select, configure and deploy the best technology solution.
Executive Development - Leadership is a learned skill. Dr. Schell can teach you to be an amazing leader, an effective manager, and an inspiring coach that can foster a vibrant culture.
Accounting Services – Dr. Schell, CPA, leads the accounting services team to become your outsourced accounting department. This alternative makes more and more sense for companies wishing to focus on their core business and also want trustworthy accounting and financial reporting support.
About Dr. Schell:
Dr. Andy Schell, DBA (Ph.D.), MSML, MBA, CPA/CFF, CMB
Dr. Schell is CEO, Managing Partner, and Co-Founder of Mortgage Banking Solutions and the Founder of MBS Financial Services ("MBS"), based in Austin, Texas. Dr. Schell is known for his ability to turn "vision into reality" and "chaos into order" as he finds creative solutions to the challenges his clients face addressing Revenue Stability, Technology Enhancement, Financial Management, and Workflow Efficiency.
He has 4 decades of experience as a strategist where he has directed the activity of both small and large groups of employees including mortgage lending activity at Bank of America. His leadership knowledge extends from his hands-on experience and his professional designations as a CPA and a CMB, and from his doctoral examination of employee dynamics given leader stimulus and strategic communication.
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