Leadership is Choosing to be Responsible

Leadership is all about making a choice, while management is about following orders or a process. A leader comes along side of their team to inspire, motivate, and care for them. A manager broods over their team with a critical and analytical eye. These perspectives are not taught per se, but they are driven by two distinct cultures and how each addresses responsibility.

In a leadership culture, the individual leading a team chooses to be responsible. It is their choice. No one forces them to be responsible. They know what it takes for their team to be productive and effective—Productive work is work that matters for someone who cares. It requires some form of inspiration, the proper motivational environment, and the team of workers to care about the customer.

In a management culture, managers choose to do what is required, not necessarily taking on any responsibility. In some cases, a manager is forced by various pressures to meet a measurement and they funnel the same pressures and expectations to their team. The atmosphere is charged with critical and analytical business views that rise above any personal attention or care for a customer. Regardless of the process, hitting the final required numbers are the end-all and be-all of the job.

When a new family comes into play with a child’s birth, the parents must immediately act as a manager to protect their kid from danger. For some it means baby-proofing the house and setting strict rules such as do not cross the street without holding a parent’s hand. As the child grows and learns the differences between right and wrong, the parent must shift from being a manager and become a leader to guide the child through future years as a teacher, then coach, and finally as a friend.

The transition from manager to leader is critical to the success of the family structure and the emotional and mental wellbeing of the child. In households where the parents never transition, the children become cynical and rarely take responsibility for their actions. The kids grow into adulthood without ever understanding who is responsible for their life. This drives an entitlement that expects others, or the government, to take care of them—Welcome Generation Z.

The key is that management is ideal during a crisis or major market shift, while leadership is best for the remaining 95% of the time.

When the COVID crisis hit, government officials stepped up as managers in the name of saving millions of lives. Once the actual death toll (not accounting for inflated numbers and numbers never reported) became known as a fraction of the original concerns, the officials should have transitioned from managing the people to leading them.

Thanks to politics and the officials who loved their new-found power, the transition back to leadership did not happen. The officials did not want the responsibility of the health or financial issues of the people. In fact, most pushed the responsibility down to local small businesses stating that all future deaths are on the businesses that chose to stay open during the pandemic.

Regardless of the bad choices of others, or who wins the battle of survival between government officials trying to save lives by shutting down businesses and small businesses trying to stay open to care for their numerous employee families, each individual needs to decide to be a manager or a leader. Both are the right thing to do at the right times, and also the wrong thing to do at the wrong times.

Difficult decisions like that require us to take on the responsibility to make the right decision for such a time as this. The thing that makes this decision easier is knowing that 95% of the time taking the responsibility and leading your team or family forward is the right choice. We just need to be careful to switch to a management style during the onset of a crisis, and purposefully shift back to a leadership style when the initial wave of the crisis has been abated.

To be a leader we must take responsibility for our actions and decisions. Also, we must never expect anyone else to take care of us, especially if they don’t have our best interest at heart. Here is where Generation Z struggles, thinking that government has their best interest at heart—but that topic is for another day.

Take responsibility for your choices and actions. Manage when you must, to get out of crisis, but get back to leading again as quickly as possible. And, don’t be a follower only, for all too often you might wake up to the realization that you are following the wrong person, plan, or politics. It’s your life, so go after being the best you that you can be by taking the risk of being responsible for you.

Copyright © 2020 by CJ Powers