Leadership and management are not the same things, even though people frequently lump them together. Being effective in one doesn’t make you effective in the other. They are very different skills with each vital to the success of your firm. Few people are skilled and comfortable in all aspects of leadership and management. You can still be a highly successful placement firm owner if this is the case.

The key is to be self-aware and self-honest so that you fill the gaps through other people and your own development. Other employees, advisors, and coaches can be critical to help you fill these gaps. If you deny or ignore your gaps, they’re likely to offset your strengths, causing you to pay the price in lost revenue & profitability, high-turnover, and stress.

Leadership is ultimately about impact and influence on people- both yourself and others. It answers the question, “where are we going and why?” It always starts with yourself since you can’t lead others further than you can lead yourself.  You can positively impact yourself and others via the following leadership functions: compelling purpose, vision, and modeling desired behaviors.  When you do this well, you create the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism to accelerate you towards your desired future.

A fundamental leadership principle is that your day to day actions matter more than anything else you do. What you say has value only if it matches what you do. For example, if you want people to follow through on their commitments, you need to do the same. If you want people to listen, you need to listen.

Characteristics of effective leadership

  • Engage and inspire people (including yourself) about where you’re going and why you’re going there. Because highly engaged people produce superior results and positively impact others.
  • Set the example by “walking the talk” and not asking others to do what you wouldn’t do yourself. Because you build trust and respect through integrity. Nobody respects hypocrisy.
  • Ask questions to understand and learn rather than assuming you know it all. Because you never know it all, and you want others to practice of seeking first to understand then to be understood.
  • Practice openness and authenticity. Because this increases self-awareness and opens the door to your growth and development. It also builds trust and safety for others to do the same.
  • Acknowledge your mistakes, apologize for wrong actions, and take corrective action to make it right with others. Because this builds the trust and respect that makes your culture special.
  • Calm yourself down when emotionally triggered (either upset or happy) before making decisions and taking action. Because strong emotions cloud rational thinking and can lead to impulsive acts that you later regret.
  • Hold yourself and others accountable to agreed-upon actions and results. Because people learn, grow, and thrive when they take ownership. Individuals and organizations are harmed when they don’t. 

Management is about things rather than people. The word manage means to take charge or control. Since people ultimately have free will, you don’t control them; you influence them, which is leadership. The distinction is essential. Management refers to strategies and goals and the systems, processes, and technologies to achieve them. These are the critical details that put concepts and intentions into action to produce tangible results. It answers the question, “what will we do, and how will we do it”?  The leadership functions above will fall flat without proper management. We all know people (ourselves?) who have great ideas and are excited and inspired. But if they don’t put their ideas into action, what’s the benefit?

Characteristics of effective management

  • Translate purpose and vision into strategies and goals. Because purpose and vision need to be made tangible or they won’t be executed.
  • Convert goals and strategies into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily actions that occur in a logical order so that you can accomplish them without heroic measures. Because unless people specifically know what they need to do today, they’re unlikely to be productive.
  • Develop appropriate metrics for the activities and results that matter most for your firm’s success. Because measurement leads to greater awareness, ownership, and action.
  • Compare actual activities and results to planned activities and results regularly. Because you need objective data to identify what’s working and not working quickly. Timely, accurate information allows you to make appropriate adjustments to strategies, goals, and actions.
  • Continuously adjust systems, processes, and technologies to improve them and to address gaps between actual and desired activities and results. Because otherwise, you’ll struggle with productivity, quality, and efficiency.
  • Communicate the above information to the appropriate people on a timely basis. Because this communication allows people to learn, share ideas and concerns, and take ownership of their jobs. If you tell people what to do without this information, you will lose employee engagement and development. 

Nobody excels in everything

It’s essential to realize that everyone is wired differently. We all have innate preferences for where we put our attention and energy. These characteristics show up when we are children and are part of who we are.  When you objectively measure these traits, you learn that the higher you are in one characteristic, the lower you are in the opposite of that characteristic. For example, the higher you are in conceptual thinking, the lower you are in practical reasoning. The higher you are in seeing details, the lower you are in viewing the big-picture. Being high in both ends of a spectrum is like being a “tall, short person”…it’s a myth.

People who are relatively competent in all of the functions tend to be in the average range for each.  The expression “Jack of all trades and a master of none” applies here. That’s why it’s critical to be self-aware and self-honest. This way, you can address your gaps to excel as a placement firm owner!  You can’t always delegate away your weaknesses, but you can improve in any “less developed” area through appropriate training and practice. Your goal isn’t to convert a weakness into a strength. It’s to prevent these deficits from sabotaging your strong suits.

Your level of success as a placement firm owner is directly related to how well your firm executes the different aspects of leadership and management. Even if you are a solopreneur, you cannot escape this truth. The bad news is that it’s unlikely that you will do well in every aspect. The good news is that you can get help to fill the gaps.

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