I have cannibalized all of my mentors. That’s a strange line to write. However, it’s a true statement. Throughout my life I identify a mentor. I suck all the knowledge out of them I can. I grow to understand their fatal flaws and because of those flaws I then dismiss them as a source of knowledge or comfort due to that fatal flaw. It has happened over and over again in my personal and professional life. I share this because a few years ago when I entered into a new phase of my career I found myself with no one to guide me from thinking like a manager and to behaving like a leader. I had left myself without someone to challenge me in that process. As I struggled on my own I had to reinvent the wheel so many had invented before me.
In the reinvention I found the truth in the statement by Benus and Nanus “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right things.” (as cited in Northouse, 2015, p.14) This resonates so strongly with me. This idea that as a manager you are focused on getting it right but as a leader the focus on defining what is right is inspiring. I have been fortunate to manage hundreds of people throughout my career. It is easy in many ways to manage the work but creating a vision and rallying the team to that is a process that is just so different than ensuring we follow the plan.
I feel Kotter’s (1990) breakdown of the dichotomy between management and leadership is strong. “The overriding function of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations, whereas the primary function of leadership is to produce change and movement.” (as cited in Northouse, 2015, p.13) In my own growth it is a challenge to realize my new work is to create the vision. As a leader I am to set the parameters. I am to push the team in new directions that break from our mold. Otherwise I am just managing us into stagnation.
As I find these new truths about management and leadership I recognize that cannibalizing my mentors is nothing more than me finding new levels of understanding about the work I do. I appreciate all my mentors have given to me and look forward to feeding the next generation of leaders from my own experiences.
Northouse, Peter G. (2015). Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.