Monthly Archives: June 2013

The give and take of leadership

adamgrantI turned on the radio this weekend in time to hear a portion of this interview with organizational psychologist Adam Grant. He has written a book called Give and Take that looks at social exchanges in the workplace.

Grant’s idea is that some people tend to be takers, wanting to receive as much as possible from interactions; while other people are givers, wanting to promote others’ welfare without needing to receive something in return.  Most of us are matchers, who want an equal balance in social trades.  While each preference has its own set of challenges, giving can lead to surprising levels of success at work.

During the brief segment that I heard, Grant made two interesting points.  First, he talked about the importance of being able to both give and take.  He said that successful givers are also comfortable asking for help. As leaders, our role is to create organizational cultures where seeking help from colleagues is encouraged.

Secondly, Grant talked about the “five minute favor.”  This is something you can do, in a relatively short amount of time, that benefits someone else.  Examples include writing a letter of reference, sharing expertise, or introducing two colleagues who can collaborate with each other. There is no expectation that the recipient will return the favor, although some may suggest that they “pay it forward” in the future.

As we begin to look at customer service, this idea seemed particularly timely.  Many of the top-notch customer service interactions I’ve experienced resulted from someone going above and beyond expectations with no strings attached. And as Grant described, some of these experiences were not weighty and time-consuming.  A simple thank you, or time spent explaining a complicated process, made me feel valued.

Have you done a five-minute favor recently?  What was the result?

–Dee Anne Bonebright


Leadership versus management

“Leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves.”  –Allan Murray

Differences between leadership and management have been debated over the last 50 years by well-known authors and thought leaders like John Kotter, Warren Bennis, and others. In fact, during my tenure at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, I’ve often been asked the questions, “What’s the difference between managers and leaders?  Do you have to be a leader to be a manager? Do you have to manage others in order to lead effectively?”

Bennis, who attempted to delineate the differences between managers and leaders in his 1989 book, On Becoming A Leader, said:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  • The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it

One of his best known quotes is “Managers are people who do things right; leaders are people who do the right thing.”

While these distinctions are interesting, I often find them unhelpful. Within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, everyone from individual contributor to senior leaders CAN exercise leadership. And we need managers who demonstrate leadership ability to innovate, challenge the status quo, articulate a vision, ask the right questions, and inspire others to follow.

Over the next few months, we’ll be focusing on a set of MnSCU Leadership Competencies, titled: Leader as Manager. This set of competencies is a useful framework for all our leaders in formal supervisory or managerial roles and includes:

  • Builds Customer Service Orientation
  • Builds Organizational Talent
  • Demonstrates Good Stewardship

Leader as manager competencies reinforce the idea that leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are inextricably linked.

In thinking about my own leadership, I tend to demonstrate some of Bennis’s characteristics of managers AND leaders. I have a difficult time staying in one camp or the other. For instance, there are times that I administer and other times that I innovate. When I’m feeling truly motivated,  I can also keep one eye on the bottom line and the other eye on the horizon. What about you?

Anita Rios