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Be a Leader AND a Manager

Originally published: 09.01.21 by Eric Knaak


A good manager should strive to be a great manager as well as a strong and competent leader.

 

During the past few decades, I estimate thousands of books have been written on leadership and that millions of people have attended seminars, conferences and many types of events all on the same topic: Leadership!

How many similar books and seminars have been held on the topic of management during that same time-period? I don’t know the answer but from personal experience I’d estimate it is less, substantially less. Why is that, and what is the drive behnd being a leader vs. being a manager? Are they the same thing? Do they co-exist or can they co-exist in the same environment and from the same person?

When I think about a manager, I think of someone who is responsible for making sure processes and procedures are being followed, that tasks are being completed and the needs of the company, the employees and the customer are being met.

When it comes to being a leader, I think of someone who leads by example, who sets the tone that creates a positive and productive environment where all team members can flourish.

Leadership vs. Management

Where leadership comes in is when there are opportunities to help a member of your team to achieve more than they would have without you. These situations will show up randomly and as a leader, you need to watch for those opportunities and teaching moments when you can provide more than simply an answer or direction.

Leadership requires work and being a great leader requires a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment to the betterment of your team. When you’re a leader, you have a responsibility to those who work under you, next to you and above you to always bring your best. To self-analyze and improve each day, to be better tomorrow then you are today and to never stop striving for excellence because people are watching, and they will follow your example.

During our bi-weekly New Employee Orientation days I’m able to have a conversation with folks on their first day with the company and I like to talk about the theory of management vs. leadership and that conversation goes something like this:

“We expect each of you to manage yourselves, we expect you to be on time every day, to follow the processes and procedures that have been proven to be successful and to be a contributing member of our team. The responsibility of the leadership team is to provide you with an environment and the opportunities to achieve more, as part of this team then you would have achieved on your own”

As you can see there is a clear line between the way I view management and leadership, not that it’s the perfect view, but its mine and that’s how I approach it each and every day.

So, what is the job of the service manager, the installation manager or the office manager? Are they meant to be managers or are they meant to be leaders — or are they intended to be a combination of both?

From my perspective someone is placed in the position of manager and just as they want their team members to do things a certain way and grow with the company, being a good leader should be the goal of any manager and being a great leader should be the goal of any good leader.

When you work for a company that understands people and what people need to be successful, you will find yourself in a position where you can be a leader every single day. And don’t ever pass up the opportunity to lead, especially when that’s what’s expected of you.

Understanding management and leadership, which do you need to be, which do you want to be and does one exist without the other? In an ideal world of a manager, we would have all the best employees in the world who would do exactly as they were shown each day and when that happens there would be little need for managers to manage because everyone would be managing themselves.

But the reality is, that’s not reality and we all have employees of different skill levels, differing levels of engagement and various levels of ability and sometimes people need to be managed. They may need help in understanding a process or how to handle a situation or where to go for this and that.

Because I said people need to be managed shouldn’t have any negative implications, managing people is natural and some employees, especially newer employees require additional support and supervision.

They have just begun their careers and they may have little to no experience in the trades so they will have more questions and require more answers. That’s okay and it’s part of their growth and we need to be there to offer that support because if we don’t, they will not be successful, and we will have all failed.

“A calming presence in an anxious environment,” is the definition of leadership I have heard for the past 15 years of my career. Ray Isaac, the CEO of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning has shared this with his team on numerous occasions and while I don’t know if this is his quote or not (googled it and no one came up), for me it creates a visual that defines leadership.

If you have ever seen the footage of when President Bush was made aware of the attacks on the world trade center on September 11, 2001, you will understand what I mean by a calming influence.

The President was sitting in a second-grade classroom filled with students when he was made aware of the attacks and when you watch the video, his reaction is historic. He didn’t jump up and leave the classroom, he didn’t panic, he remained calm and composed, although he was now distracted.

How would Americans had responded if the President had rushed out of that classroom or appeared anxious, scared or nervous? Obviously, nothing that we deal with can compare to the horrors of that day, however it provides a great example of leadership.

Co-Existing

From my vantage point I see management and leadership as co-existing within the same organization and within the same person. Would it be possible to be a great leader without being a great manager and could you be a great manager without being a great leader, I don’t think you can be.

A good manager should strive to be a great manager and from my experience, someone becomes a great manager when they have also become a strong and competent leader. They have moved beyond the work that is performed and they are finding ways to help their team members to grow and become the future leaders of the organization.

When I was promoted to vice president, my focus shifted from the work that I produce, to the work that others produce and how to help them to do more and find a balance between work and home, while providing an enjoyable and engaging work environment.

During this time, I am still aware of the tasks that people perform and how we are doing daily, so the management piece never goes away, it’s my touch point with what’s going on and the real world that our team members live in. For clarity’s sake, whether someone is a great manager, or a great leader is open to interpretation.

Ownership may feel one way and team members another, the goal of a leader or manager is to be able to meet the needs of both.

Regardless of your views on leadership and management, shouldn’t any of us want to be the best that we can be and help our team and organization to be successful?

Each of us, regardless of position or time with our companies, can manage and lead. It might be a co-worker who has a question, it could be a customer who is not happy with how something was done, and it might be how we handle a stressful or unique situation.

The objective is to not wait for someone to place the title of leader or manager after our names, but to instead look for those opportunities where we can make a difference and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Our mission statement at Isaac is “Lead at all Levels” and has been for the past 12 years. It means that Isaac will be a leader in all that we do, whether it is HVACR, Plumbing, Electrical, etc. It also means that no matter what level or position you hold with the company, we want you to be a leader.

Manage when you need to and lead when presented the opportunity and always look for ways to help your team members be successful. People will follow the examples you set, and they will, in turn create a client experience based on your actions and commitments.

 


About Eric Knaak

Eric Knaak is vice president of operations for Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, N.Y. and past-chairman of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). For additional information, visit isaacheating.com.


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