#91 Descent Into Leadership

by Steven Cerri on July 22, 2010

Hello everyone!

I know, everyone wants to be a leader. No one wants to be a manager… right? Management has no glory but leaders are the heroes.

I’ve heard it all before. Business magazines tout the virtues of leadership and praise the leaders and say little about the managers who toil at their craft.

I even coach clients who do not want to be managers but rather want to be leaders when there is no one to lead and nothing to lead them toward (if there were people to lead).

Leadership has a great connotation… and management… well management is for managers.

Those of you who have taken my classes and/or been mentored/coached by me know that I think most people have this leadership/management thing all backwards and upside down. Most people don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to management and leadership including that great leader AND manager Jack Welch. He mixes the words up when he ought to know better.

Much of the time in my classes and in my mentoring/coaching I give you clear examples of the differences between management and leadership by giving you my own experience and my own perception. I have looked for some time for a “worldly” example of the differences and alas I have found an example that you can all sink your teeth into and clearly get my drift. It has nothing to do with business, engineering, or technical management and leadership.

It’s a book about caves.

That’s right. It’s not a book on management and leadership exactly; remember they’ve got it all backwards. No, while this book is not specifically about leadership or management it is actually one of the best books out there on the subjects.

It’s a book about “supercave” exploring. The book is titled “Blind Descent” by James M. Tabor….. and it is a recently released.

Whether you are a spelunker or a supercave explorer (and they are very different), an engineer, a technical manager, a leader, a supervisor, a CIO, CTO, vice president, or CEO, this book is about leadership and management and is worth reading.

It is a true story. It is well documented, well written, interesting, factual, and recent. It’s about two major protagonists, Bill Stone, an American and Alexander Klimchouk, the Russian.

The Leader: Bill Stone

Bill Stone, by all accounts is a leader. Especially in the American “definition” of the word. By all that is praise-worthy in the US business world, Stone is a leader on a par with anyone in Silicon Valley and anyone in the best known American corporations. And he is a terrible manager.

And it shows in his processes and in his results. He and his team explore what just might be the deepest cave in the world, the vast Cheve Cave in southern Mexico, on a quest to be the first to find the deepest cave in the world. It is a race to find the officially documented deepest cave in the world… a race against other supercave explorers. And his leadership is unquestionably top notch but his management is not, and it leads to mutinies, desertions, and worse for his team. He doesn’t find the deepest cave in the world; but he doesn’t find the deepest cave in the world… his way.

The Executive: Alexander Klimchouk

On the other side of the globe, in Abkhazia in the south-eastern Republic of Georgia, north of the Black Sea is another cave, known as Krubera. Here the Russian Alexander Klimchouk and his team look for the deepest point in Krubera in the hope of claiming it as the deepest cave in the world… first. Klimchouk is both a good leader and a good manager, something I call an “executive”. Like clock work he shifts from leading to managing and back in a smooth process of finding the deepest point in the cave. His teams are energized, motivated, committed, safe, and successful.

The Executive versus the Leader versus the Manager

I believe that management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. A successful leader cannot be so without being a good manager and a good manager ultimately cannot prevail without being a leader.

The manager in you must be developed first, however. A manager can manage for a reasonably long time, in most situations, without being a leader, but a leader cannot successfully lead for very long without being a manager. That is, most situations in life that require management and leadership require more management than leadership. And many situations can do just fine with management and no leadership at all.

For example, in supercave exploration, much of what is required for success is logistics and planning and execution, all management functions. The leadership portion is necessary but minimal as in most projects, programs, or situations in life. To be sure, leadership is necessary, but it is not the sole parameter for success and it does not “live” by itself.

In my world, the term executive, whether the CEO or the manufacturing floor supervisor, means that regardless of your title, if you are accomplishing tasks through the application of people, then there are six functions that you must preform. They are called functions because all executives must perform them, but the tasks within each function vary depending upon your level in the organization; the functions apply to all regardless of your level in the organization.

The Six Functions of the Executive

The Six Functions of the Executive are as follows:

1. Create or Aim the Team at a Target

2. Create an Environment Where People Want to Participate

3. Secure Resources and Remove Obstacles

4. Manage the Interfaces

5. Get Results

6. Control Your Emotional State

As you read “Blind Decent” you will notice that Bill Stone and Alexander Klimchouk perform each of the functions of the executive to differing degrees of competence. In fact, I grade them as follows:

Bill Stone

1. Target……………………….Good

2. Environment……………….Poor

3. Resources/Obstacles……..Fair

4. Interfaces…………………..Poor

5. Results………………………Good

6. Emotional State……………Fair

Alexander Klimchouk

1. Target……………………….Good

2. Environment……………….Good

3. Resources/Obstacles……..Good

4. Interfaces…………………..Good

5. Results………………………Good

6. Emotional State……………Good

Whether you are a manager or a leader you must perform these six functions successfully. Whether you are the CEO or the floor supervisor determines which of these functions you emphasize and what tasks you perform in their achievement but they all must be “covered”.

Read this book and learn something you may not have known about supercave exploration, and notice the differences between Bill Stone and Alexander Klimchouk. The behaviors displayed by Klimchouk are what I teach regarding management and leadership. Management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other and sometimes you want the coin to turn up “heads” and sometimes “tails”, but unlike a coin, successful executives do not leave it to chance.

Be well,

Steven Cerri

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