Thoughts on leadership, management

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Mohon
  • Personnel Recovery Academy
What is leadership? What is management? How are these two concepts interrelated in an organization? We all want to lead and not be managed and definitely not micromanaged. The relationship between leadership and management is sometimes difficult to grasp, although we can often define what it is through simple definitions.

What sets the Military apart from the corporate world is our focus on leadership vice management, but it is important to think about both aspects and what it means to the unit's mission.

The first job of leaders is to create more leaders. Leaders are developed through selection, mentoring and grooming. Mentoring is for the many and is a benefit of your experiences. Grooming is for the few and is the benefit of their own experiences. Use every opportunity to mentor everyone you can and spend time with those who have the potential to be senior leaders in the future.

Leadership focuses on motivators. Motivators are those types of things that give people a sense of belonging. Motivators are communicated by leaders to the lowest possible level and include vision, inspiration, values and culture. Good leaders are principled, they are transparent and they understand that their values WILL become institutional values.

Other motivators include pride, professionalism and performance, which can be thought of as a constant circle, each contributing to the other. Leaders cannot demand performance, but they can demand pride and professionalism. A professional is one who always does the right thing, takes time to professionally develop based on organizational needs and strives for perfection to ensure excellence.

A unit with professional pride will perform at a high level. To instill pride and professionalism in a unit, accountability must be established. Authority must follow responsibility and those responsible are also accountable. Authority can be delegated and responsibility can be assigned but a failure to consistently hold people accountable will create a culture of mediocrity. Culture in a unit is like wallpaper in a house. Over time, you stop noticing the wallpaper. It is important for leaders to take a step back and notice what is going on around them.

Management focuses on hygiene factors or de-motivators that must be maintained at a certain level for the health of a unit. Hygiene factors include systems processes, resources, policies and organization. It is important for a unit to decentralize, or in other words, organize around the product (mission), not the process (functions). Organizational structure can preclude success, but it cannot by itself ensure success.

Watch out for systems that tend to punish the excellent in order to reward the mediocre. Measuring is good, setting goals is better but comparing is best. Use caution, however, to measure the right things. When it's hard to measure what's important, things that are measurable become important.

A common complaint in many organizations is the level of micromanagement. Everyone hates being micromanaged. Or, does the boss just want micro information? It is important to distinguish between the two and realize that when you are being micromanaged, it might be a good idea to change your behavior such as being more proactive and anticipating your boss's needs.

Finally, to be the kind of leader you want to be, do those things those kinds of people do. In other words, envision the perfect leader and emulate those actions. Leaders should spend time doing things only they can do for the organization. Most of the issues and problems we have in the Air Force today can be overcome with good leadership. Sound leadership principles must be taught and learned all the way down to frontline supervisors. Management problems can be addressed with leadership or management, but leadership problems can only be addressed with leadership.