January 19

The Solution: Leading People, Managing Objects, and Accomplishing Goals

by Martin Fisher

Those who know me have come to expect me to “correct” them whenever they say “manage people”.

“Objects are managed, people are led,” is my usual retort. Sometimes I am met with a blank look, sometimes with a exasperated grimace, and sometimes (and not nearly often enough) by a questioning stare.

“What?” the quizzical friend often asks. “There’s not a difference worth mentioning.”

Nothing could be further from the truth and nothing, in my opinion, has done more to impede the progress of the information security profession.

The abject failure of leadership, from senior ranks, through middle management, to front-line supervisors has led to a culture that glorifies “meeting expectations”, extols the virtue of “accomplishing goals”, and is satisfied with “getting the job done”. Don’t get me wrong – these things are important – but they miss the vital difference: That a dynamic leader can take a group of people and almost always “exceed expectations”, “surpass goals”, and “get the job done better” and still have a happier team and more satisfied customers.

“How does that happen?” asks the still-quizzical friend, “Isn’t meeting expectations what we’re here for? Isn’t that enough?”

Sadly, it isn’t enough.

All people appreciate leadership. Everyone inherently wants to belong to a team that accomplishes exceptional results. Nobody wants to be in an organization that doesn’t excel.

The key to this is the Leader.

Leaders determine, by applying their leadership talents, just how far the team will go. Setting a goal and managing to that goal ensures that any additional capability is forever lost. Managing to a goal guarantees that the exceptional capability that is native to any team will be lost in a desire to just do “enough”. When we manage people, instead of lead them, we are condemning ourselves to forever experience sub-optimal results, never knowing what could have been accomplished.

“But my team is happy and my customer is satisfied. Doesn’t that mean I’m succeeding?” asks the friend as their frustration with the conversations grows. “You’re making more out of this leadership thing than it really is, aren’t you?”

This is the point where the friend has reached an almost Matrix-esque moment…

“Take the blue pill and this conversation ends. Everything goes back to the way it was and you can believe anything you want to believe. But take the red pill, and I’ll show you how you can take the leadership skills and talents you have and use them to transform yourself and your team. I’ll teach you how to truly get more done with more satisfaction.”

Which pill, my friend, will you take?


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