Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Leaders Are Different Than Managers (Part II)

In my last blog post, I looked at the basic differences between leaders and managers. In looking at these differences, I argued that managers are concerned primarily with managing processes and creating efficiency, while leaders are concerned primarily with influencing, connecting, equipping and inspiring people to achieve positive end goals. But in order to understand this definition, it is important to break it apart to see the complex set of factors that create these differences. Today's blog post, and those that follow it, will focus on these factors that help us distinguish the roles of a leader from those of a manager.

Factor #1: Manager Seek Stability; Leaders Seek Positive Change

One of the major ways that leaders are different from managers is that leaders actively seek to promote positive disruption in the organization to change it for the better, while it is the job of the manager to promote as much peace, equilibrium, and stability as possible to keep his/her workers functioning at the optimum level of efficiency (Kotter, 1990). As Kouzes and Posner (2003) put it, good leaders are to "challenge the process" to create a better future for their organization.  Thus, while a good manager is focused on today and how to make it the most stable and productive day possible, leaders are focused on tomorrow and how to move his/her people on to the goals that will create positive results down the line.

The appropriate interplay between stable management and adaptive leadership, therefore, can be very contingent on the situation at hand. In times of relative peace, good management is essential to help people continue to do what they do well; but in times of great turmoil, adaptive leadership is key. In such times, the adaptive leader must challenge stakeholders to get outside of their normal comfort zone to look for not only how to solve the problems of today, but build a new tomorrow. As Ronald Heifetz (1994) put it in his book Leadership Without Easy Answers:

In a crisis we tend to look for the wrong kind of leadership. We call for someone with answers, decisions, strength, and a map of the future, someone who knows where we ought to be going--in short, someone who can make hard problems simple...Instead of looking for saviors, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions--problems that require us to learn new ways (p. 2).

For Heifetz (1994), one of the forerunners of adaptive leadership theory, "Adaptive leadership isn't about simple answers, but confronting reality and forming innovative solutions" (p. 22). In being adaptive, then, leaders push their organization to remake the status quo into something better, something more congruent with future realities. This requires that, first and foremost, the leader himself/herself be adaptive--what more recent authors are terming "learning agility" (De Meuse, Dai & Hallenbeck, 2010; Norton, 2010).

But the process of getting followers from the present status quo to the new normal of the future can be an uncomfortable process. As Margaret Wheatley (1992), who, in the early 1990s, sought to meld concepts from chaos theory, quantum physics, and other fields of science with leadership theory, noted:

New understandings of change and disorder have also emerged from chaos theory. Work in this field has led to a new appreciation of the relationship between order and chaos. These two forces are now understood as mirror images, two states that contain the other. A system can descend into chaos and unpredictability, yet within that state of chaos the system is held within boundaries that are well-ordered and predictable. Without the partnering of these two great forces, no change or progress is possible. Chaos is necessary to new creative ordering. (p. 13)

Thus, while the leader must bring a controlled chaos into the organization in order to truly move people on to a positive agenda for the future, it is not easy to find the right balance for how to achieve this in a way that does not cause the system to implode upon itself. As Jim Collins (2001) in his book Good to Great noted, companies who moved from being merely "good" to truly becoming "great" never did so in "one fell swoop;" the process had to be carried out one step at a time, building momentum along the way (p. 14). This fine interplay between chaos and stability, then, is something that requires artful handling, skillful reframing, and the right balance between new ideas and a celebration of the existing stories of the organization (Bolman & Deal, 2013; Gardner & Laskin, 2001). As Lewin's (1951) theory of change so famously put it, the task of the leader is to "unfreeze" the status quo, implement the change, and then "refreeze" the collective consciousness of the organization towards the new reality. As the analogy implies, unfreezing and refreezing a group's mindsets do not happen overnight, and thus it is the job of the leader to constantly be looking for new ways to inject disequilibrium into the system in a positive way that creates the right amount of urgency alongside enough stability so that the people feel that the process is still under control (Kotter, 1996; Heifetz, 1994).

None of this process of change, chaos, and disequilibrium, though, sounds like much fun to the normal employee. And thus we come back to the need for both good management and good leadership within an organization. Employees can only go so far in a given amount of time, and thus it is essential that good managers are in place to help them efficiently manage the processes that are required for the day at hand. At the same time, however, good leadership is essential to create a slow but steady move towards the positive goals of tomorrow.

So we end today's blog post with the realization that good management and good leadership are essential for any organization. But as this first factor in our list of distinctions between management and leadership implies, the roles of the leader and the manager are quite different in an organization. In our next post, we will continue our look at the factors that make these distinctions so very important in the real world.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How Leaders Are Different Than Managers (Part I)

In coming in contact with students, professors, and business people, I am asked quite frequently what the difference is between managers and leaders. For many people that I talk to, it seems that they consider it to be a difference without a distinction. Inevitably, they wonder: is this focus on "leadership" just a fad, or a buzzword conjured up to sound more important than "management?"

The truth is that there are major differences between the two concepts of leadership and management, and this is not just some "fad" that has been created to sell more books (Kotter, 1990). Each of these important constructs represents distinct and unique roles that are vital to an organization. Without one (management), an organization would crumble under the weight of its own inefficiency; and without the other (leadership), the organization would eventually be crushed under the weight of the status quo. Both leadership and management represent qualities that are desperately needed for any organization to truly thrive. And, in many instances, individuals must learn to be both leaders and managers, utilizing the right dose of each depending on the unique demands of each circumstance (see e.g. Burns, 1978; Katz, 1955; Hersey & Blanchard, 1969).

So how should we look at these two concepts? This blog series will focus on this key issue, and will seek to provide a framework for looking at these two distinct, yet interrelated concepts.

While many authors have waxed eloquent on this topic, I believe that a simple analogy might provide a good framework for this discussion. To do this, I want you to think of a semi-trailer truck--one that is a part of a larger fleet of trucks, and is intended to carry an important load to a destination far away. For the manager of this truck, the most important thing is to make sure that this truck achieves its purpose as efficiently as possible. Thus, the manager creates a maintenance schedule to ensure that the truck is in tip-top shape; he seeks out drivers who are competent, experienced, and will do the job right; and he makes sure to create a dispatch system that lets the driver know exactly where to go, what roads to avoid, and what stops to make. In essence, the manager is there to ensure that all of the processes in place (e.g. the dispatch service, maintenance record-keeping, and job placement) are all as efficient as possible. 

On the other hand, the leader of the trucking company has a very different job. While he certainly cares about how each truck is functioning, and whether or not it gets to its destination on time and in good working order, these are not his primary focus. Instead, he is asking questions like: Based on the shifts in demographics that we can see coming in the future, what routes should we create to maximize our chances for success down the line? How can we improve our relationships with clients by not just getting their products there on time, but creating a mutually beneficial engagement process? How can we foster a better working relationship between the many ethnic groups that comprise our workforce and utilize the best of what each has to offer? How should we restructure our company in order to prepare for a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster, epidemic, or financial downturn? And how do we motivate our workers to think outside the box and create new ideas for making the company better? In essence, the job of the leader is influencing, connecting, equipping, and inspiring people for the purpose of achieving positive goals. 

As you can see from this analogy, both the manager and the leader are absolutely vital to the company. If the leader created a new trucking route, but didn't have a manager to implement the change, the results would be disastrous. And the "leader" will likewise have to don his "management" hat quite frequently in order to supervise the day-to-day operations of the company. As situations change, each executive in the company will have to use the right amount of each skill set--both leadership and management--as appropriate.

So based on this analysis, we are left with a simple definition of the difference between leadership and management: Managers are concerned primarily with managing processes and creating efficiency, while Leaders are concerned primarily with influencing, connecting, equipping and inspiring people to achieve positive end goals.

In the next segment of this series, we will break down this definition into its elements, and look at the factors that play a part in creating this important distinction.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

I read an article this morning titled "Why Introverts Make Great Leaders," and it struck me how far we have come in America in promoting the idea that extroverts are the only ones who can (and should) be leaders. In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain labels this the "Extrovert Ideal" (p. 4). As she puts it: 

We live in a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal--the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups...Introversion--along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness--is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology... (p. 4)
Yet despite this "Extroverted Ideal" that Cain talks about, the article mentioned above by Jessica Stillman argues that introverts can excel at leadership in seven key ways: 1) being better listeners; 2) being better prepared; 3) digging deeper; 4) engaging in solitude and reflection; 5) keeping their cool; 6) not settling; and 7) writing more.

Of all of these qualities, I believe that one stands out in particular: the fact that introverted leaders have the ability to engage in solitude and rumination as a way to learn about themselves and their surroundings. In a world that seems to demand 24/7 attention from leaders, many authors argue that it is this "inward journey of leadership" that helps a leader step back from it all and create the self-awareness needed to lead effectively (Souba, 2006).

Studies have shown that leaders who take time to think introspectively have a far greater capacity for flexible or adaptive leadership (Cohill, 2007; Norton, 2010). In times of turmoil, angst, or crisis, when there is no clear-cut answer at hand, such adaptive leadership can be key (Heifetz, 1994). But to truly be adaptive, leaders must take the time to sit and think--to ruminate on their own past successes and failures, find the lessons from those experiences, and apply those general principles to new problems. And this is what can help to make introverts great leaders.

Certainly, extroverts and introverts can both make great leaders. But this article highlights some of the often overlooked qualities that can make seemingly "quiet" people into great leaders.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Systems Thinking: One of the Keys for Leaders at the Top

One of the most important skills that a leader at the top of any organization can possess is the ability to "see the forest for the trees." While employees may only notice issues, problems, and opportunities in their own small circle, leaders at the top of an organization must be adept at seeing the whole picture--how interconnected relationships and interrelated processes span the entire organization. In other words, the leader at the top must be able to notice how decisions in one area of an organization have a vast effect on all of the other areas of the organization.In the leadership literature, this key skill is known as "systems thinking."

History of the Concept of Systems Thinking

The idea of systems thinking spans more than two millenia, dating back to the writings of Aristotle. His ideas regarding unity were what spawned this revolution in thinking.(Footnote 1). For Aristotle, systems (such as the human body) were made up of collection of unified parts that worked together and were interconnected (Metaphysics, 1045a14-15). 

The foundational principles of unity that Aristotle espoused served as the groundwork for many later scholars (Ropohl, 1999). His views on unity played a major role in shaping the thinking of later theorists such as Kant, Hegel, and Goethe (Gupta, 2009, p. 44). In addition to these thinkers, Aristotle's contributions also played an important role in shaping the views of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, who was the father of modern systems theory (p. 44).

While Aristotle's examples may have been of simple composite substances for the most part (e.g. a house), the potential remained to apply the principles he elucidated to much larger, more complex systems. Von Bertalanffy and later systems thinkers felt that Aristotle's holistic views could form the basis for a new, interdisciplinary field of study that focused on the interrelationships within systems (Mele, et al., 2010, p. 126). Using these basic ideas, Von Bertalanffy, a biologist, argued that the integrated biological systems he was studying could provide insight into systems in other areas of academia (Jackson, 2003, p. 6). Over time, scholars in other disciplines began to use his ideas to form a discipline of systems thinking that focused on the unified, interrelated nature of systems (pp. 7-11). Thus, as an interdisciplinary field, systems thinking began to look at systems in engineering, business, medicine, mathematics, and many other fields (Mele, et al., 2010, p. 129).

Following in the footsteps of Aristotle, these systems thinkers also began to utilize systems thinking in the fields of management and leadership (Bolta, 2009, p. 78). Traditional management theory, in particular, typically focused on organizing and managing discrete departments of an organization efficiently (p. 78). Thus, these traditional management theories were limited by the fact that they focused on individual or departmental achievement rather than achievement on a broad scale across an organization. In introducing the ideas of systems thinking into these fields of management and leadership, the ideas of Aristotle began to infuse the way management and leadership theorists viewed organizational behavior (Mele, et al., 2010, p. 126).

These theorists began to look at organizations as unified organisms, and focused on how actions in one sector of an organization could have unintended consequences in other sectors of the organization (Senge, 1990, p. 84). As Peter Senge, one of the foremost authors in this field, stated: "Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes…a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than snapshots" (p. 68). Thus, he felt that leaders and managers should focus on how to make decisions that positively affected the entire unified system, and should learn how to see the multi-layered effects of their decisions. For Senge, the key to utilizing systems thinking for organizational growth lay in creating a "learning organization," where people were continually learning how to think more collectively, plan with the whole system in mind, and work towards common goals. In such a learning organization, Senge felt that the collective IQ of the group would be greater than the sum of the parts, and would enable leaders to make informed decisions that brought the best information from many sectors into play.

Other scholars have focused on recommendations such as balancing long-term and short-term goals within a system, understanding hidden factors that affect organizational health, and seeing the cyclical nature of how individuals in a system interact with each other (Khyrina, Burairah & Abd Samad, 2012, p. 386). On the other hand, some scholars argue that there are really four main strands of systems thinking today: 1) theories that focus on optimizing organizational structure, decision-making and goal-setting from a systems perspective; 2) theories that focus on understanding differing viewpoints within a system; 3) theories which focus on fairness to minority stakeholders within a system; and 4) postmodern approaches which focus on plurality and diversity within a system (though scholars attest that it is debatable whether these postmodern approaches are truly systemic in nature) (Jackson, 2003, pp. 25-27). While these differing theories focus on various goals, structures, and people within an organizational system, all of them (with the exclusion of postmodern systems theories) focus on finding unity within the system and understanding the interplay between the elements that make up the whole. Thus, these systems approaches help managers and leaders within an organization find ways to structure their business models and relationship models in such a way that the health of the entire organizational system is optimized. In this way, these theories apply the foundational concepts of unity espoused by Aristotle to the modern-day context of leadership, management, and organizational behavior (Mele, et al., 2010, p. 127). By using these ancient ideas from Aristotle, systems thinkers are able to create systems that promote holism, cohesion, and environments where ideas from many different areas of a company are utilized to promote the overall well-being of the entire organization.

Modern Application

Peter Senge's (1990) model of systems thinking is particularly helpful for modern leaders. The key theme behind Senge's The Fifth Discipline is that of a "learning organization," where groups of individuals in an organization begin to learn together and see the larger whole in a more comprehensive way.  His premise is built upon the idea that only those companies who learn faster than their competitors will be able to survive in a modern global economy (p. 4).  Thus, Senge's theory is that companies must foster this type of learning organization by ensuring that all of their people practice the five disciplines that he outlines in this work: a) systems thinking; b) personal mastery; c) mental models; d) building a shared vision; and e) team learning (pp. 5-10).  He states that such thinking requires a collective "shift of mind" in the organization (p. 13).  Likewise, this model requires individuals to overcome their organizational "learning disabilities"--such as focusing on external enemies rather than internal failures, fixating on short-term events rather than the larger picture, and seeing oneself as only having a narrow purpose in the organization (pp. 18-22).

In Senge's mind, the most important discipline for any organization is that of systems thinking.  This discipline revolves around the idea of seeing the larger whole, understanding interrelationships between the parts of the whole, and seeing patterns in how the parts react together (p. 68).  Thus, he likens an organization to a complex living organism that must be balanced to achieve success (p. 84).  Each action causes a reaction and the interplay between the actions and reactions can best be understood, Senge argues, by thinking of them as a circle diagram wherein each result cyclically affects the other component parts of the whole (p. 82).  In a learning organization, managers and leaders use systems thinking to see patterns of actions and reactions and understand how to leverage those situations in the future (pp. 94-95).


While seeing the "forest for the trees" is not easy, it is absolutely vita for the health of an organization. For this reason, it is one of the core leadership skills that is needed in our global economy. As companies span international borders and workforces become increasingly more diverse, it will be the leader who can see the "whole" that will succeed in the complex environment of tomorrow.


F1 - Whereas his predecessor (and teacher), Plato, had seen form and matter as being separate, Aristotle boldly stated that matter and form were one--there was a "unity" of substance (Scaltsas, 1994, pp. 114-115). As he famously put it, when a heap of bricks, stones, and mortar are assembled together, they can become a unified whole in the form of a home (Metaphysics1041a25-32). In his view, the sum of these building materials (i.e. the unified house) was more than the individual parts (Metaphysics, 1041b12-17). Instead, the parts, when joined together, became interconnected; they became "re-identified" according to their special role in the unified substance (p. 108). Instead of merely representing an unconnected amalgamation of loose parts, the individual elements were integrated together and jointly formed a substance that was more than the sum of the individual parts (Fine, 1994, p. 34; Haslanger, 1994, p. 136).

DBU - Master of Arts in Leadership Program

Dallas Baptist University's Master of Arts in Leadership Program

I am excited to announce a new Master of Arts in Leadership program at Dallas Baptist University.  The program is intended to serve as a catalyst for equipping leaders with the skills they will need to serve as Christian leaders in a variety of organizational contexts. The links below provide the details of this unique opportunity:

Program Overview
Leadership in the 21st century requires a broad array of skills and competencies, and Dallas Baptist University’s Master of Arts in Leadership is designed to provide students with the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to gain these important leadership skills. It is intended to fill a gap in the current pool of master’s level programs available in academia by focusing on the soft skills associated with leadership. The program will provide students with training in areas that have been recognized as important in the eyes of employers (such as communicating a vision, collaborating with diverse groups, building teams, being able to lead change initiatives, exhibiting emotional intelligence, and resolving conflict), as well as giving them a foundation in emerging areas of leadership study (such as cross-cultural and global leadership). In addition, a major goal of the program will be to impart a Christian worldview of leadership and help students learn to ethically and morally apply leadership principles.

The following are the required courses for the program:
·         Christian Worldview of Leadership
·         Leadership in Management
·         Business Ethics
·         Biblical Servant Leadership
·         Vision-Casting & Leading Change
·         Leadership in Conflict and Adversity
·         Leadership Communication
·         Relational Leadership & Emotional Intelligence
·         Cross-Cultural and Global Leadership (S-L)
·         Mentored Leadership Internship
·         Great Leaders in History
·         Team Leadership, Collaboration & Examination of Leadership in the Lives of the Founding Fathers (Experiential Learning Trip to Washington, D.C. or Boston)

Practical Focus
The MA in Leadership is designed to provide practical skills and knowledge that will help students lead with distinction in real world contexts. Here are some of the practical experiences woven into the fabric of the program:

·         Leadership Roundtables: Learn from and network with seasoned leaders who will share their perspectives on leadership in the real world. These roundtables will be integrated into the core courses of the program, allowing students to learn from leaders in the midst of a classroom setting.
·         On-Site Business Visits: In addition to bringing leaders into the classroom, students will have the opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders at their organization’s headquarters. These on-site visits will provide students with rich experiences that will help them understand how leadership is applied in practical settings across a diverse range of industries.
·         Consulting for a Cause Program: Students will have the opportunity to apply their leadership through the Consulting for a Cause Program. This program pairs students and faculty with local nonprofits, small businesses, and churches to solve real problems for real organizations. Student and faculty teams will be presented with a core leadership challenge facing the designated organization, and will perform research, analyze data, and generate a plan for how to initiate positive change to solve that challenge. In so doing, students will gain valuable insights into real-world leadership issues, while also giving back to the community.
·         Mentored Leadership Internship: Because the process of applying leadership principles cannot be learned only in the classroom, students will be immersed in a mentored leadership internship. These internships will allow students to learn from leaders in the field and see how leadership is practiced in a variety of contexts.
·         Experiential Learning Trip: Students will have the opportunity to embark on a life-changing experiential learning trip to either Washington, D.C. or Boston, Massachusetts. These trips will be designed to allow students to meet with a broad range of national and international leaders in the business, nonprofit, and governmental sectors. In addition, students will visit important historical and cultural sites and have the opportunity to discuss the implications of leadership in history and in today’s 21st century environment.
Learn from Exceptional Leaders in the Field
Students in the MA in Leadership will have the opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders, including the following outstanding Christian leaders:

·         Dr. Gary Cook, President of Dallas Baptist University 
·         Dr. Wright Lassiter, Former Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District 
·         Dr. Albert Reyes, President of Buckner International
·         Dr. Adam Wright, Vice President and Dean of the Cook School of Leadership at DBU
·         David Cook, Attorney and Program Director for the Master of Arts in Leadership at DBU
Dual Degrees
The Cook School of Leadership is pleased to offer several dual degree programs that pair with the MA in Leadership. These dual degrees include:

·         Master of Business Administration/Master of Arts in Leadership
·         Master of Arts in Theological Studies/Master of Arts in Leadership
·         Master of Arts in Christian Education/Master of Arts in Leadership
·         Master of Education in Higher Education/Master of Arts in Leadership