Jan 082014

Have you ever wondered why most businesses that have grown beyond the “Mom & Pop” stage have both a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a Chief Operating Officer (COO)? It’s because leading something and running something are two different things. As the size of the organization grows, it becomes less and less likely that one person can concurrently perform both functions well. Yet potential growth and maturity of the organization is forestalled because one person continues to try to do both jobs.

CEO and COO are terms that have evolved over the last few decades. The old titles for these two different functions were President and General Manager. The titles themselves spoke to why so many organizations languished from lack of leadership. Presidents preside over something. The job of the president—the “presider”—is to keep order and exercise control.

General Managers manage. The word “Manage” derives ultimately from mano or manus—hand. Managers are “hands on” people. General Managers have their hands on everything. They control and allocate (manage) resources to solve problems. They don’t set direction. They keep the organization moving in the same direction—faster, more efficiently, and smoother, perhaps, but still in the same direction.

Who, then, is steering the ship whether it be the ship of state or the ship of enterprise? The Leader is. “Leader” is not a title. It’s a function. The leader dreams (envisions), constantly directs attention back to the dream (casts vision), and defends the dream from derailment by other dreams whose time has not yet come (stewards the vision). If you had to pick between CEO and COO, whose job is it to dream?

I work with leaders of smaller rather than larger organizations. Often the root of the problem is that the head of the organization—who’s often the founder—is both CEO and COO. Often, too, they’re right in the thick of things as the chief producer. They try to do three things at once: lead, manage, and produce.

Leading is about dreaming, managing is about solving problems (crises), and producing is about the craft of doing the work to make something or to make something happen. When push comes to shove, crises push dreaming off the table and the “leader” retreats into doing the work—which was often their first love anyway. (For a brilliant exposition of this conundrum that plagues many smaller organizations, see The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber.)

The solution to the problem I’m discussing is for the leader to delegate authority to others to manage and to produce while retaining the responsibility to dream and establish direction. The primary problem that keeps leaders of organizations that are moving from smaller to larger from doing this is fear—fear of loss of control. The Bible says, “Love casts out fear.” Let me steal that thought and paraphrase it: Trust casts out fear. The job of the leader is to dream and build trust with managers and technicians (those who actually do the work to produce the product) who are worthy of trust so that the leader can dream and establish direction while the managers manage and the producers produce so that the organization can move toward the dream.

That’s scary enough to do when the managers and technicians work for you. The “power of the paycheck” does give a business leader some leverage, although vision is a much better motivator than money. But most of the organizations whose leaders I coach are churches—smaller churches whose leaders hope will grow larger. The people to whom church leaders (pastors) have to delegate the managing and the doing don’t work for them in the sense of employment. They’re volunteers. The primary motivators for volunteers are a powerful, inspiring, shared vision coupled with appreciation, approval, and approbation for work well done.

Developing, stewarding, and casting the powerful, inspiring, shared vision is the job of the leader. To do that job well, the leader needs time to dream. To get time to dream, the leader needs to trust their volunteers and delegate authority to trustworthy people. Let me steal and paraphrase another verse from the Bible. Here’s the situation: A senior leader is mentoring an emerging leader. Here is the advice he gives: entrust [the dream] to reliable [persons] who will also be qualified to [lead] others.

That’s the solution, the “what to do about it” posited by Michael Gerber. But knowing what needs to be done doesn’t mean you know how to do it. That’s where I come in. A good coach can help you uncover the “how” that enables the “what” that you need to free the dream to become reality. Don’t look for a quick fix. It’s a long arduous journey, but you don’t have to walk it alone and all the results don’t happen at the end, they come bit-by-bit along the way.

Call me.



 Posted by at 7:59 am