A Manager is a Leader Not a Follower

Too many times, I have seen managers ask their boss what they should do and how they should do it. If you do this, you are not a manager. You are an order taker.

A manager’s job is not to execute every decision of his/her boss or to ask the boss how or whether to do things a certain way. A manager’s job is to organize the work of others with the sole purpose of achieving a set objective. Depending on the objective, it could be set by the boss or it could be set by the manager. But mostly, the “what” is set by the boss, and the “how” is set by the manager.

A manager needs to figure out the how and that is one of the big rewards of being a manager…the ability to figure out how to do something and then do it.

If you have someone on your team that asks for vacation day…don’t discuss it with your boss. Make the decision yourself. You know the team workload the best. Decide. If John, who works for you offers to work late a few days this week so he could get a day or two ahead on his work, why not agree on-the-spot to his vacation request. You will gain respect, loyalty and goodwill from John, and you have freed your boss from another decision.

If someone on your team wants to work at home next Tuesday while waiting for the cable guy to come…..make the decision yourself. Don’t ask your boss. Decide. If Katherine, has a report due that same day, what do you care if she stays at home waiting for the cable guy…but wakes up early, finishes the report and turns it in by 9am. You get your report. Katherine feels respected as a responsible adult. And once again, your boss doesn’t have to bother with decisions that you, as a manager, should be making.

These seem like small, insignificant examples, but I have seen and heard managers have discussions with senior managers for longer than just a few minutes about whether someone on the team should be able to take a vacation.

I have also had managers tell me, “Well, my boss wants to be involved in these kinds of things.” Or “I can’t just let Katherine work from home…my boss will go crazy and what message does it send to the rest of the team…that they can stay at home and not work?”

First of all, and I ask again, if the work is getting done…what do you care? Trust me, people who work for managers think this…”If I send my manager the report early, why can’t I leave early occasionally to go to my son’s soccer game.” People love working for managers who are flexible and reasonable and respectful. They will work harder for bosses like that.

And as for the senior manager who “wants to be involved.” Why can’t you just un-involve them? Just start making decisions and saying to your boss, “don’t worry about it…I’ll take care of it.” Then, deliver results. Your boss will come around and grow to respect the fact that they do not have to worry about your team.

If your boss does not come around….find a new boss. But for Pete’s sake, be a leader; make decisions; treat people with respect; and deliver results.


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