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Leverage Through Effective Management May 22, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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Yesterday I compared leaders to catalysts in chemical reactions. Today I thought of another interesting metaphor from the world of mechanical engineering.

When a manager comes up from the ranks, they’ve typically already established their credentials as a strong individual contributor. There’s a powerful temptation for such a manager to roll up their sleeves and dive in when the team is confronted with a difficult technical challenge. I’m not saying that a manager should withhold their talents and experiences, but that person needs to be clear when they’re speaking as an individual contributor and when they’re speaking as the manager with positional power. I’ve seen many situations where subordinates becomes naturally reluctant to criticize or second-guess the manager when the manager is trying to assert technical authority. In the worst-case scenario, intimidated team members silently watch as the manager drives the bus right off the cliff. I’ve often found myself thinking: “I know what the right answer is. Just do it my way and nobody gets hurt.”

The team achieves more when the manager uses leadership skills as a lever. When a lever and its fulcrum are properly positioned, the application of a small force on one end is multiplied by mechanical advantage at the other end. When the manager has aligned the team to a common purpose with clear objectives and performance measures, they can apply a small force and gain tremendous advantage through the efforts of the entire team. When the manager does all the work themselves, there’s no gain, no learning, and no growth.

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