In every industry there is always a list of best practices. These best practices have been compiled over the years by the studious who have erected practical fortifications to guard these practices. These guards are those whose above all focus is in doing things right. Thoughts proceed into actions, actions turn into curriculum, which mature in seminars and over-ripen in academia. If there is anything we have learned in this last recession is that even best practices have a life cycle. Take for example the news media. The medium of news is changing faster than anyone can predict. Newspapers and local television news shows are waning away in popularity while internet is gaining in popularity. The problem with the internet is who do you trust? So much information, so much print, so many experts…where are best practices now? The internet news feels more like the wild wild west of cyberspace than it does a soft safe industry that is well defined. Why watch the evening news or read the paper? By the time the news arrives, it has already been broadcast all over the internet and is stale with age. How did we get so informed so quickly? How does one harness the internet?
We got to where we are today by doing things right and by doing thing right. First let us explore doing things right. There are many who can manage and do things right. These managers are the ones who refine processes, determine budgets, allocate resources, set quotas and meet goals. In the course of managing, the manager unknowingly erects walls built on the foundation of procedure and sets guards in place to control insurrection and change. Best Practices. A manager does things right. There is a place for a manager in business. The place for a manager is in taking an undefined process and improving.
The challenge the manager has, is she cannot foresee the danger the walls pose to the longevity needed in best practices. The procedural walls become rigid as sacred territory is captivated within the walls. The challenge becomes more apparent as growth involves new lands, bigger conquests, more territories – the internet. Conflict is inevitable. These are uncharted waters. What was once an iron clad fortress with a well-defined and protective moat is now a threat to growth and change. New technology makes the old defenses obsolete. Conflict with management is inevitable as a manager is wired to control and make predictable the unpredictable. The problem with best practices is practices change. So, what doesn’t change?
Principles. Principles don’t change. The principle of truth in business should not change. The principle of how value is exchanged should not change. So, what needs to change?
In the latter part of the 90’s and the early part of this decade business needed managers to control processes, establish guidelines, increase profitability and define the business model. The best managers were rewarded as it was imperative that the company work smoothly. That paradigm has shifted. What is now in demand is not management, but leadership. What’s the difference? You ask. The difference is while the manager does things right, the leader will do the right things. No amount of contract refinement or process refinement will increase sales. Managers may help with profitability through refinement, but may not be best suited to lead. What is needed now, more than doing things right, is someone who knows which things to do and does the right things. Therein lies the difference between leaders and managers. Leaders chart direction in periods of uncertainty, while managers refine the direction after the uncertainty is removed.
Now is the time for leaders to emerge.