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March 1997: Volume 12, Number 4


Leadership vs. Management

By Vaughn Dragland

ast fall, the company I work for sent me (along with a group of about 40 of our people) on one of those "outward-bound" excursions; where we climbed with ropes, tried to stand on top of a telephone pole, and leapt from a 55 foot high tower to glide across a canyon on a zip-line! We also talked a lot, laughed and cried, and did some strategic planning for our company. The whole idea was to learn to trust one another and learn to work as a real team toward common goals. It was truly an exhilarating experience! I learned a lot in those few days, including the fact that I work for a company that I could respect; because its senior management valued me as an employee enough to spend the time and money to deepen my learning in this important area. Most importantly though, I met a man named Rob Koch from "Pecos River" who shared some random thoughts with me, and inspired me immensely. I would like to share them with you, too.

Rob explained that the most important factor in an organization's success is its people; and quoting from Tom Peters said, "The number one leadership skill is the ability to develop others." What is the number one ingredient for a successful company? Customers - of course! But, in order to be hugely successful, a company must focus its energies on creating loyal, delighted customers. The best way to create this loyalty and delight is to make your customers feel that your organization does more than just provide an excellent product or service to them. They must feel that you are sincerely dedicated to their success as well as your own.

Picture this: Your products and services, while they may not be the best in technology or price, are designed in a way that helps your customers deal with their particular business problems and opportunities. Your very manner of doing business makes sense from the customer's point of view and feels of value to them. Sounds great, right?

Now picture this: Your organization has these loyal, delighted customers because your employees work in a culture where they feel important, respected, and valued by the organization. They are able to grow and stretch, encouraged to do what is needed for the customer, and rewarded for their efforts and results.

Real Competitive Advantage

In today's high-tech environment, believing your technology is your key to success is no longer valid. Anyone can now buy, acquire, or form a strategic alliance in order to get the technology they require for their business. Leading edge technology still has competitive advantage, but only for a limited period of time. Your business practices can eventually be replicated by anyone who wants to play the "me-too" game and level the playing field. In the end, the only feature that is unique, different and sets you apart in the eyes of your customers is the quality of the people who make up your organization.

Customers must see your employees, regardless of their role, as the one true discriminating factor in choosing to do business with your company. Success is assured when no other organization can bring so many well qualified, well trained, (client focused in their thinking,) collaborative people to bear on their problems and opportunities as your company can.

Leadership

You will have employees like these when the leadership of your organization is treating the staff the same way they want the staff to treat their customers. Pure and simple. Enlightened leadership sees its role as creating the culture, the environment, the processes and the rewards for every employee to be at their best when working for the organization. Further, it sees its role as continually developing the capabilities of the human resource within the organization to keep ahead of the growth of customers and competitors. Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric once said, "We have to undo a one hundred-year-old concept and convince our managers that their role is not to control people and stay on top of things, but rather to guide, energize, develop and excite!"

People are able to work at their best when they feel trusted and respected as individuals; when they feel that they will be supported in taking risks and learning. They excel when they feel that their opinion matters, that they are valued by the organization they work for, that what they do makes a difference, and that they are rewarded for their individual and group performance.

I am grateful to Rob for sharing this wisdom with me. I am also grateful to work for a company that understands these concepts and "walks the talk". We know how to act. Now it is up to you and me to take the challenge and apply these insights in real-world leadership opportunities. T < G