By Amit B. Singh for Leadership Snohomish County
Today’s executives must possess top-notch skills in both leadership and management to evolve a business entity from good to great. This is true for nonprofits and businesses. To remain relevant in our rapidly changing, digitally connected world, it’s critical for CEOs to build and sustain connections with their entity’s greatest asset — employees. Balancing the roles of leader and manager can give executives an advantage when it comes to creating a connected company culture. As Peter Drucker defined it, leadership is about people, management is about process.
Leadership is critical and becomes more important as you advance your career, but it’s equally important to continue to stay involved at the management level. Many leaders tend to focus on the strategy of running a company but fail to remain engaged at the implementation level. If you want to be successful, you need to be hands-on. Being hands-on means checking in with employees from time to time, helping to remove any obstacles and providing needed resources. The difference between being hands-on and micromanaging is that being hands-on is assisting with the “what,” while micromanaging is dictating the “how.” Being hands-on is how leaders bring their strategies to fruition.
“Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.” This is a simple but powerful statement from “Connect, Then Lead,” a Harvard Business Review article that resonates with my views on leadership and management. If leaders want their employees to champion and invest in their vision, they must connect with employees first. It’s imperative to be visible. Take time to step out of your office and meeting rooms to connect with employees. For me, that means taking regular walks around the Edmonds Community College campus to stop and talk with employees and students, learn more about them and their work, and answer questions. It’s important to acknowledge their individual contributions and how all of us working together will make our vision possible. Additionally, I hold regular town hall meetings for employees and periodically send out newsletters in an effort to be transparent and keep our campus and community informed.
You can also expand your reach and connection by broadening your leadership team. The idea is to bring more of your company’s leaders together more often to discuss common goals and vision. At Edmonds, I hold weekly meetings with the President’s Leadership Team, which includes 10 of my top executives, and with the College Leadership Team (CLT) every two months. The CLT includes about 50 employees who are at the director level and above. I created the CLT with the goal of having college leadership hear directly from me about goals, priorities and expectations. It’s also dedicated time that we can spend discussing various in-progress and new initiatives, removing barriers to student success, and building a stronger team.
Keeping a balance between leadership (the people side) and management (the process side) is not easy, but if you can master both, you will be able to move your company and its employees forward.
Amit B. Singh is president of Edmonds Community College and a supporter of Leadership Snohomish County, a local organization that connects, ignites and develops leaders to strengthen our communities. To learn more about Leadership Snohomish County, visit www.leadershipsc.org.