Thoughts on Leadership

This past Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting interview with Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab, during which he said:

I draw a distinction between management and leadership. There’s a contractual relationship with your manager. And you can do your job and fulfill the terms of that contract and never really have your heart in it.

But leadership is something completely different. With leadership, you make a decision every day about whether you choose to follow someone. And you make it in your heart, not your head. The ability to inspire followership is so different than management, and it requires transparency, authenticity, vulnerability and all things that are completely unnatural to you when you are trying to build and achieve and accomplish.

We think too little about the differences between a manager and a leader. The skills are not the same and there path between them is not evolutionary. While great managers are often good leaders, good managers aren’t necessarily great leaders. They fulfill the necessary tasks of managing and get the job done. The rational approach to managing a workforce is to acknowledge this and instead of simply promoting someone up through the ranks based on past performance, understand that excelling at one level in the organization doesn’t ensure success at the next, especially if that level requires a fundamentally different set of skills and characteristics in order to be successful.

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