As I mature and become more aware of the subtleties of business, I am slowly learning the meaning of Leadership. It’s clear to me that Overmanaged and Underled is Not Lean Leadership. For most of my career and, in part, my education, I have aimed to be become the best — technically — in the field of Operations, Logistics, Supply Chain, Lean Manufacturing, and Six Sigma. I haven’t achieved my aim — and, indeed, view that pursuit as a lifetime goal — but I am now at a place where I feel some sense of achievement in those areas that I mentioned and have become painfully aware of those areas where I need to grow.
I do not intend any hubris in what I am saying, but this post is primarily a post of reflection - Hansei - and brutally facing the facts of where I have personally traveled and how I need to improve.
I have a clear need to grow in Leadership. I have myopically focused on the technical side of things and also on managing, but really failed to nurture my ability to communicate a vision, align and inspire people, and get people moving in the same direction.
In my short career, I have been fortunate enough to have helped companies achieve bottom-line savings & target revenue growth through fundamental improvements in the business — not through financial engineering — but through real, improvements in the business. I am thankful that I have been able to do that and am grateful to my previous team members and mentors who have helped me along the way. What I am focused on now is on growing my ability to lead. I have so much to learn but am so excited for the opportunity to stretch and grow.
A Defining Example
I was a kid who came from very humble circumstances. I immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when I was 9. My dad died when I was 6. We were in America — poor, alone, but with big dreams. My family and I lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment in Northern California; my mom worked hard as a secretary and my 3 older brothers also worked very hard — often times 2 or 3 jobs while attending school. I was young, but helped where I could.
That example of hard work and struggle that I witnessed from my mom and brothers and that I also went through were defining moments for me. I learned early on that a “Free Ride” doesn’t exist and that hard work was the right approach. I’m thankful to my mom and brothers for setting an example for me at an early age.
Since I was young and, in large part, had very little supervision or guidance, I got into trouble and even found myself in juvenile hall once. I’m not proud of that period of my youth, but that experience helped to shape me — it helped me to change.
I Needed a Mentor
We moved from one apartment complex to another during my Freshman year of High School. In that new apartment complex, I was fortunate to have a neighbor that influenced me greatly. At the time, I was 15 and this neighbor was a 50-year old Jew-turned-Hindu. He had devoted himself to the Monastic life and devoted himself to serving others.
He Needed Help with His Groceries
He was older and had a bad back. One day when his back was hurting unusually, he motioned to me for some help with his groceries because he couldn’t bring them up to his apartment. I helped him and we became friends.
Through our friendship, he helped me to focus and to broaden my vision of what I could do with my life. At that time, I honestly believed that I would be in Jail by my 25th birthday, or not be alive by that age. He helped me to “see” a life different than what I had. Then, he helped me to envision how I can get to a better place — this included doing better in school and getting my life in order. Through his kind, gentle, and tough mentoring, he really motivated me to do better and to be better and to “see” a different life — a life I could personally create.
I set some goals and started to do better in school. I obtained a job at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken, working 30 hours per week while attending High School. I eventually became Assistant Manager and learned how to manage a small business, people, inventory, and the importance of customer service. I also learned to juggle school and work and, it was then, that I also became addicted to Chicken Wings.
Since that time, I’ve been blessed to have accomplished some other things in business and life.
He showed me what Leadership is; through his mentoring, stretching, challenging, tough teaching, and loving guidance, I have become better. I am so thankful for good people who help others grow.
Leadership and Management
John P. Kotter, in a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, claims that most organizations are Overmanaged and Underled. He explains the differences between Leadership and Management, which I summarize below:
|Cope with Change||Cope with Complexity|
|Set a Direction||Planning and Budgeting|
|Aligning People||Organizing and Staffing|
|Motivating and Inspiring||Controlling and Problem Solving|
Kotter shares an example from the Military, which is an organization that produces exceptional leaders. He shares this quip, which explains well what he believes the differences are between Leadership and Management: “No one has yet figured out how to Manage people effectively into battle — they must be led.”
In the article, Kotter elaborates on the differences between the elements of Leadership versus Management. I plan on summarizing his thoughts, with a few comments of my own, at some future time.
What about you?
I’m curious to know from you — who, in your personal history, was a good example of a Leader and how did that person shape you?