Friday, October 17, 2014

Managers, Leaders and Entrepreneurs: Employee Perspective

Over the past few years, I have worked in different places where the behavior and personalities of certain people have shaped my experiences at the organizations. 

You will hear this phrase many times uttered by CEOs: "Human capital is the greatest asset at our companies." After all, the work is done by the employees. 

One of the reasons that triggered this post is that nowadays always some pair combination of managers, leaders and entrepreneurs is used to define business people. The below descriptions dig deeper to explore these three types of personalities, an employee often encounters in an organization. 

[Image source - 
MEL Institute]

Manager: Typically, I find managers results driven (in a good way) with an understanding of the capabilities of the system. Managers accordingly plan, execute things. The expectations from employees and result mean everything and often, and there is a structure or process driven aspect to working for a manager. I have had managers who tend to oversee every little detail and it was essential to set appropriate plans, priorities and milestones to effectively work in such a situation. As there are defined metrics on evaluation of your work, these set the ground-rules and boundaries for an employee to work towards meeting the key performance indicators. People at consulting companies are typically great at management in a corporate setting, however as we know, you should manage to lead and not lead to manage. I believe the relationship with the employee makes the difference, as an employee is either working for someone to complete a task or ideally working with someone on a task.

Leader: Yes, you guessed it right. These are people who inspire the group towards a common goal and are usually running the department or the organization in most instances. The couple of things that have stood out for me that a leader has are: a great grasp on clarity of thought and creating the environment to achieve success. The metrics for accountability actually help the employee to be rewarded for the hard work and motivates one to aspire and contribute to the goals. You are part of the team. Successful leaders are genuinely interested in developing skills of the employees and actively empowering the group, encouraging to even step outside the comfort zone. While working with leaders, I have often found myself acknowledging failures, yet focusing on the learning component to continue working towards the project goal. The expectations to meet deadlines is always here, but the employee has the belief to accomplish and do great things for their team / department / company.

Entrepreneur: I wish I knew all the traits that define an entrepreneur. At the core, the passion and focus to create something using the available resources, drives an entrepreneur. The end goal always evolves, hence the approach is flexible. The advisors and mentors do a great job to give unbiased feedback to maintain objectivity in pursuing the product goals. The employee in a startup typically wears many hats, doing a multitude of functions, and is caught in the exciting journey while working in a dynamic environment. I feel one needs to understand the strengths of the team and each individual to be the most productive, as the team has the capacity to be nimble, task driven and innovative at the same time. As the team grows the organization needs to bring in people with management skills to ensure smooth running of the projects. This many times affects the working structure as more processes are established to scale the organization. The employee needs to understand the short term goals but be cognizant of the product vision. Hiring employees is one of the most critical jobs for an entrepreneur to build the right team for the product / company. Amongst the many things, a can do attitude and ability to execute are the attributes an entrepreneur cherishes in  his/her employees.

There is definitely an overlap among the three categories and it is hard to find people fitting these archetype of roles. I believe, greater overlap between these personalities leads to a better outcome in most instances. 

To oversimplify things, entrepreneurs imagine products, managers build these to scale and leaders create organizations.  Productivity in the work setting is affected by many factors, however from an employee standpoint, the one thing that defines the working relationship is trust. Within the organization, other factors like culture, talent development strategies, appreciation and appraisal are some of the important aspects for employees to be productive. 

There are plenty of articles written on this subject, including a book that provides insights from U.S. airline industry. If you feel academically inclined to further peruse this topic, do check MEL Institute. Here, Prof. Dover and Prof. Dierk have tried to quantify the competencies and highlight the challenges within organizations. 

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