Ten Observations About “Managerial Behavior”

  1. When managers produce successful change of any significance in organizations, the effort is usually a time-consuming and highly complex eight-step process, never a one-two-three, hit-and-run affair. Managers who opportunistically skip steps or proceed in the wrong order rarely achieve their aspirations.
  2. Although change generally involves a complex, multistage process, regardless of the setting, some essential actions taken by effective managers with transformational goals always vary from case to case to fit contingencies in their situations. As insensitivity to local contingencies, a one-approach-fits-all attitude, can produce disaster.
  3. For a number of reasons, many people influenced by twentieth-century history and the corporate cultures it created — even capable, well-intentioned managers — often make a predictable set of mistakes when attempting to institute significant, nonincremental change.
  4. Leadership is different from management, and the primary force behind successful change of any significance is the former, not the latter. Without sufficient leadership, the probability of mistakes increases greatly and the probability of success decreases accordingly. This is true no matter how the change is conceptualized — that is, in terms of new strategies, reengineering, acquisitions, restructuring, quality programs, cultural redesign, and so on.
  5. Because the rate of change is increasing, leadership is a growing part of managerial work. Far too many people in positions of power still fail to recognize or acknowledge this most important observation.
  6. Increasingly, those in managerial jobs can be usefully thought of as people who create agendas filled with plans (the management part) and visions (the leadership part), as people who develop implementation capacity networks through a well-organized hierarchy (management0 and a complex web of aligned relationships (leadership) and who execute through both controls (management) and inspiration (leadership).
  7. Because management tends to work through formal hierarchy and leadership does not, as change is breaking down boundaries, creating flatter organizations, more outsourcing, and the demand for more leadership, managerial jobs are placing people in ever more complex webs of relationships.
  8. Because managerial work is increasingly a leadership task, and because leaders operate through a complex web of dependent relationships, managerial work is increasingly becoming a game of dependence on others instead of just power over others.
  9. When one starts to think of managerial work in terms of networks and dependence, not just hierarchy and formal authority, all sorts of interesting implications follow. Ideas that would have traditionally sounded strange or illegitimate — such as “managing” your boss suddenly take on importance.
  10. What a manager / leader does on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis rarely fits any stereotype of manager, heroic leader, or executive, a fact that can create considerable confusion for those in managerial jobs, especially newcomers. Daily observable behavior is nevertheless understandable if one takes into consideration the diverse tasks (including both leadership and management), the difficult work (including both maintenance and change), and the web of relationships (which goes far beyond formal hierarchy) that come with the territory.

Source: What Leaders Really Do, by John Kotter, p. 9


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