Management versus Leadership
As the first generation of overseas Vietnamese mature, we will have
opportunity to move into management. This series will now move towards
more management topic, but we will welcome engineering oriented articles.
Engineering manager, or engineering leader? Which are you? Which do you
want to be? Defining yourself as one or the other could ultimately decide
your career destiny. According to Gabriel Hevesi (Checklist for Leaders,
Productivity Press), leadership is a mix of skills, attitude, will, and
motivation. "To become a leader, you must want it, work at it." Managing,
he observes, "is an assignment, a job." A middle management job in many
organizations, especially large ones is a no-win deal, comments Karl
Albrecht (Creating Leaders for Tomorrow, Productivity Press). "Middle
managers often feel themselves hemmed in by policies, procedures, and
rules of someone elseís making, and at the same time they feel under
pressure to innovate, communicate, and make change. They feel pressure
from the top and demands from the bottom." Hevisi counters: "A leader
uses judgment when under pressure from above to be iron-handed and
pressure from below to delegate all."
Enfranchising engineering managers as leaders. Albrecht argues that the
middle management problem is really a problem of role confusion not
competence. The solution must come through role clarification. He
suggests three things have to happen for engineering managers to become
the kind of leader needed by their organization. They need to:
- Adopt a new mind-set about themselves and their roles;
- Think through the roles of their organizations in the context of the
goals of the overall business of which they are a part; and
- Have the support of a service-oriented organization culture around and
The most important change for engineering managers to adopt is a new
mind-set. "The old mind-set is one of administration, procedure, approval
and disapproval, and passively reacting to events and problems presented
by others," Albrecht explains. The new mind-set must be proactive,
entrepreneurial in focus, broader in scope, and more business-focused
than in the past. Hevesi, meanwhile describes a leader as "applying
common sense and avoiding extremes; directing rather than dominating;
involved, but not lost in details; and delegating without trying to avoid
Making the transition to engineering management leadership. Engineering
managers who want to move from the old role of bureaucrat to a new one of
entrepreneurial leader should do the following:
- Define the real contribution of the engineering department, in terms
of the customer it serves, both internal and external.
- Define and articulate a clear mission for service.
- Train, develop, and orient the engineers and technical staff for
creating value, not just doing tasks.
- Focus the organizationís systems and procedures on the delivery of
service and the creation of customer value.
- Focus the rewards on service, to appreciate those who contribute to the
success of the enterprise.
There are many models for leadership. No one is a panacea. However, many
are workable. It is less important which one you follow, rather to
exploit the most useful features of several. Therefore, we present two
for consideration. A 12-point checklist for leaders (see accompanying
table), developed by Hevesi offers practical suggestions that can be
applied now by engineering managers. The following "six dimensions of
service leadership" is a model used extensively by Albrecht. He maintains
that leaders, including engineering leaders, are called upon to provide
service leadership. He argues that the old "command-and-control" style no
longer fits contemporary social values and is no longer effective.
Instead, leaders must now have a service focus: service to the customer,
to the employees, and to the organization. Albrechtís six "dimensions"
- Leaders have vision and value. To be a good visionary, engineering
managers must be able to see the big picture, understand whatís
happening, and decide where their unit needs to go. You are the one who
will provide the vision, spell out the purpose and contribution of the
engineering groupís existence, and develop a strategy for accomplishing
it. Engineering leaders must take a personal stand for the values that
lie behind the vision. And they must make these values real and
compelling for others.
- Leaders provide direction. You make the strategic vision into a
reality. A leader sets the overall direction for the team. This means
choosing what's important for the group to accomplish, setting goals to
accomplish it, setting priorities that keep everyoneís mind on the goals
every day, and helping everyone understand the plan.
- Leaders use persuasion. You must also be able to get others to see,
understand, and believe in the vision. As an effective leader, use your
formal authority effectively, not heavy-handedly, but not in a shy way
either. You are comfortably and effectively in charge. You project self-
confidence in dealing with others. As a leader you can communicate
clearly and with impact.
- Leaders provide support. A critical part of your role as a supporter
is to make effective decisions. You also create the climate in your team
that fosters innovation and creativity. You make sure the people know
they are authorized to think. You want them to look for better ways to
get things done.
- Leaders foster development. An effective leader is one who sees to it
that people have a chance to grow. You occasionally discuss each personís
needs and desires with them on a personal, private basis, to better
understand what you need to do to help them develop. One important thing
you need to do as a leader is expect high performance from every person
on the team, to work effectively, and make a contribution.
- Leaders show appreciation. Let people know you care for and about
them. This is an area where many engineering managers often come up
short. A good leader can inspire people and help them feel good about
what theyíre doing. Remember, we all want respect and recognition, no
matter how sophisticated we are, how educated we are, or how mature we
are. Good leaders know that and act on it every day.
Checklist for Leaders - A Guide for Day-by-Day Decision and Actions
(Source: Gabriel Hevesi, Checklist for Leaders)
- Emergence of a leader
- Review "The Emerging Profile of a Leader" characteristics and
check off the qualities you possess. A leader:
- is authentic - sets examples and priorities;
- is committed - coaches, motivates, communicates;
- challenges conventional wisdom;
- leads change and innovation;
- trusts, and builds trust;
- is courageous - knows right from wrong and does whatís right,
regardless of the consequences;
- is results-oriented - fights resolutely for an idea;
- is demanding, but fair - uses authority, but is not authoritarian;
- is entrepreneurial;
- is a team-builder - members have complementary skills;
- sets trend - the leader is followed, not a follower; and
- is energetic.
- Of the qualities you donít have, select three you are keen
to possess. Establish a time limit, say, 12 months. Start developing
these qualities now.
- Rate your peers by the same measure. Assist them in improving.
Everyone will benefit.
- Leaders exercise common sense and sound judgment
- Use sound judgment and choose the right priorities. Success depends
- Never underestimate common sense.
- Each business situation requires its own solution. Create one that
matches and supports your organizationís vision, goals, character, and
- Leaders lead
- Lead the change, whatever your present level. Donít risk being left
behind. How many innovations did you make lately?
- Donít simply manage people Ė lead them.
- Spell out your ideas loud and clear. No one hears a mute.
- Leaders communicate
- Communication is recognition. Even a reprimand is preferred to being
- If you want people to listen to you, learn to listen to them.
- Do you listen with care? Communicate more than whatís essential? Do
you pay and receive attention when you talk to your peers, superiors, and
- Leaders negotiate
- Do you adapt your style to the people you negotiate with?
- Are you conscious of your own behavior? Your own vulnerability?
- Do you prepare yourself thoroughly?
- Leaders holding meetings
- Make sure meetings are results-oriented and have a real purpose.
- Donít waste time and money. Be prepared and follow-up
- Critique the last five meetings you attended. How many were
- How could you make the next ones more productive?
- Leaders make presentations
- Never be defensive. Be positive and factual.
- Match problems with solutions.
- Offer alternatives, but have your own recommendations ready.
- Leaders build teams
- Did you identify which role you play on the team? Your teammatesí
- Is your team composed of people with diverse talent, bonded by a
- Are you a good team player? Willing to give team objectives priority
over personal interest?
- Leaders plan
- Gather business intelligence. Collect all pertinent information from
all sources all the time.
- Formulate strategy and objectives. Use resources, knowledge and
strengths to your best advantage.
- Set measurable short- and long-term goals, including how, when, and by
- Leaders are efficient
- Simplify to gain efficiency over bureaucracy.
- Set high standards of quality to reach excellence.
- Create an environment for innovation to lead.
- Leaders promote change
- Organizational changes must be well thought out to justify cost and
- Success depends on communication, motivation, education, and
- Sources and strength of resistance must be anticipated. Deal with
potential problems from the early stages on.
- Leaders make decisions, solve problems, use experience
- In decision making, importance must have priority over quantity or
- Decisions must be fast, yet well thought out.
- Intuition, facts, and questioning are essential to making the right
- Can we solve the problem without conflict?
- Can my view of the other party be wrong?
- Can an approach in good faith result in a good solution?
- There is no sound judgment without experience
- Experience gives insight. Habit accommodates.
- Creativity is imagination over habits.
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