Of course, I made the arrangements and was taken to the meeting where I first met Burgess, a not-so unassuming presence in the room. A large, burley fair-haired man, Burgess was unmistakable.
The group was just beginning to take a break, so Burgess suggested we step into a hallway where we could chat. As we settled into a corner, he leaned down and reached out with his bear-like hand thanking me for meeting with him. In his Irish accent, he spoke of vision and commitment. He described an organization where union and management worked together toward common goals—where managers made sure employees had the tools and resources to make great things happen and then got out of their way. In a gentle, grandfatherly sort of way, he then explained that it was important for everyone to understand that creating this unique organization wasn’t just so people could feel good. It had to satisfy shareholders and improve business performance.
It was many months from our initial meeting before I saw Burgess again. As the CEO of a multinational Fortune 500 company, Burgess traveled extensively. But whenever he saw me, he would take the time to call me by my first name and ask what I was working on to support the vision. Before moving on, Burgess would offer a word or two of encouragement.
Burgess was a leader. He understood that managing—controlling things and people to get work done—was important, but not what he needed managers to do most. Those tasks could be shared with core employees who could take greater responsibility for the work. What he needed his managers to do was to follow his example as a leader—to inspire others through a basic human desire for meaning and purpose at work; to enable passion and drive to achieve a common vision by providing knowledge, skills and resources to line staff.
Just look around and it’s easy to see that we have far more managers than leaders in most organizations. Managers are busy planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, measuring, controlling, etc. They see management tasks as belonging to those with a title of Manager. Leaders, in contrast, establish overall direction, communicate and reinforce vision and essential values, create greater core employee access to resources, facilitate goal achievement, remove barriers and enable greater freedom to make decisions, and build core worker capabilities in all areas. Leaders help and trust others to manage themselves and their own work and make sure they have what they need to succeed.
Leaders are leaders not because of some inherent trait, but simply because they engage in practices that inspire or enable rather than control. It’s not that managing is no longer relevant. Organizations need both managing and leading. It’s more an issue of pushing out to those closest to core work issues tasks associated with managing, and converting traditional managers into leaders.
J. Burgess Winter was a leader because he lived his espoused values and taught by example how to inspire and enable. He lived the principles of leadership and trusted the rank and file to manage the needs of the day-to-day business.
Trying it on for fit: Assess whether you are a manager or a leader by considering the tasks below. Build capabilities by teaching and entrusting others to perform many management tasks on the list and develop yourself for greater leadership.
Here is a simple guide for developing yourself to be a leader: Decide what you would like to do to move from managing to leading. On a sheet of paper, label the left side Current State and describe how you do things currently. Label the right side Leadership Skill and describe what you would be doing if you had successfully made the transition in your selected skill. Label the middle section Strategy and outline your strategies for developing yourself including what you will do and by when. You may also find it useful to list people and other resources that may be helpful to you in this process.
Send an e-mail and let me know what you learn from your experiences. I would love to hear from you!