Should we set goals as leaders or as managers?


photo by isobel t

People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine (Brian Tracy)

Earlier this week I read an article in Knowledge@Wharton called: “Is This Madness? How Losing by Just a Little Can Help a Team — or Company – Win“. This article describes research done on basketball teams who are losing by just a little on half time. The research shows that these teams come out of the half time and improve their performance usually wining the game. From this and other research, an idea of the importance of small achievable goals is described. A short excerpt:

A lot of tools are used in the workforce to motivate people, such as wages, bonuses, etc. While surely these things can have motivating effects, one should not underestimate the potential importance of psychological motivation as well. This paper shows that the psychological impact of being behind by a small amount can cause significant increases in performance … Berger and Pope suggest that the role of managers as motivators looms larger — to set goals that are understandable, achievable and within reach.

That made me think again about what I believe is the difference between leaders and managers. Leaders should deal with the future, with creating a clear picture of the world in order to dissipate the natural fear inhabited in each and every one of us. Thus, a leader focus is on the future. A manager, on the other hand, should focus on the immediate actions of his employees and on ways to help them become remarkable at what they do by finding their talents and utilizing their strength.  A big part of this is motivating them and setting the right, achievable goals. Helping people accomplish things they never could imagine.

 The problem is – and being in a MBA program myself right now, I can see it personally –the conventional wisdom is that management and leadership is the same thing. That all managers should also simultaneously be leaders. This makes managers, who should focus on their employees and the short-term achievable goals, focus instead on the far future, setting far and unreachable goals. It also puts people who do not have the talent and skill to deal with the long term future, deal with it. What follows is wrong use of goal setting that leads to disaster.

So, when you are setting goals for your employees, are you thinking like a leader or like a manager?


3 Responses to “Should we set goals as leaders or as managers?”

  1. Leader=manager? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] This is some great piece of advice. For managers. Delegating is not part of being a leader. I know it is hard to make the distinction. God knows I sometimes make the same mistake. But it is important to try. And I know this seems to be a semantics issue. But it is not. It is at the heart of people’s performance, because it affects the way they perceive themselves and the goals of their actions – future oriented…. […]

  2. Motivation or Vision? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] try to implement leader’s role in dealing with their people on a day to day basis, you get these mixed results Bregman argues […]

  3. How does a Judo Fighter act at home? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] This got me thinking on a subject I touched upon a number of times in this blog. The difference between managers and leaders, the expectation that all managers will do both and the problems that this approach creates. […]

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