From Where I Sit: Take Me To Your Leader

Tim Springer explains why there are distinct qualities that separate true leaders from mere managers.
Tim Springer explains why there are distinct qualities that separate true leaders from mere managers.

From Where I Sit: Take Me To Your Leader

From Where I Sit: Take Me To Your Leader

By Tim Springer
Published in the August 2007 issue of
 Today’s Facility Manager

Are you a manager or a leader? What’s the difference? Leadership involves assessing and avoiding or taking risks, setting long range goals and strategies, defining the direction of a unit or organization, recognizing the possibilities and potentials of the future, and inspiring others to join in realizing that future. Management involves the execution of plans, the coordination of activities and resources, cooperation among and across units, and the day-to-day operation of units and organizations.

So are you a leader? Why does it matter?

Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter believes most organizations today are over managed and under led.1 He says today’s workplace challenges call for someone who combines strong leadership (what he defines as the ability to create a changing environment) and strong management to cope with complexity.

If this is true of most organizations, it goes double for facilities. Never before have fms had to cope with the present level of complexity and the need to create, accommodate, and manage change.

Think you might be a leader? What’s your style? There are three different styles which should be related to circumstance.

Lead from the front. When times are tough, organizations, no matter how large or small, need someone to lead the way. To be out front and identify risks, to steer everyone in the right direction, and to deflect or defend against challenges is the job of a leader.

Lead from the middle. When an organization experiences a high degree of uncertainty, when members are unsettled and look to their leader for reassurance and strength, it’s important for a leader to “be among them”—to lead by example—and lead from the middle.

Lead from the rear. Finally, when problems have been solved, goals accomplished, expectations exceeded—when glory is won and celebration is in order—a true leader moves into the background and lets the organization, the team, collect the accolades. That’s the time to lead from the rear.

Are you a champion? Not all leaders are champions, but all champions are leaders. Which are you?

Recognizing your potential for leadership is seldom easy. In many ways, it is a product of circumstance—the right person at the right place and time. However, it is also taking advantage of circumstance so that you are that right person.

Deal and Jenkins studied the “hidden organization” and describe the characteristics of champions. “Champions are passionate leaders. Whatever they do is done with contagious gusto and zeal. They are advocates of an organization’s core services or products.”2 They go on to describe “The Key Stuff of Covert Champions.” These leaders:

  • have a strong commitment to service and serving the company;
  • have an innate feeling and pride in the scores of people in the organization who are invisible (who work “behind the scenes”);
  • are more than willing to talk about accomplishments of unseen employees;
  • are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved at all levels of the organization (from the boiler room to the board room);
  • look for ways to assure that the invisible accomplishments of backstage workers are celebrated so these workers can enjoy some of the same limelight stars bask in regularly;
  • are able to function in power parity with other top managers to assure that interests of backstage workers are not put on the back burner; and
  • are passionate about “important grunt work” without which the stars would be unable to function.3

Two themes run through these descriptions of champions. First, there’s a commitment to the folks who make it happen. Second is the commitment to serving others. Both are central to the job of fm.

It’s easy to substitute “fm” for “champion” in the descriptions here. Any person exhibiting these traits or who works toward manifesting these characteristics would have great leadership potential.

So if you’re passionate about what you do, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, if you step forward when times are tough and step back when kudos are being handed ‘round, then you, my friend, are a Facility Leader.

I believe there are a lot of you out there. I’d be honored to meet you. More importantly, I believe the profession needs to meet and recognize you—or at least recognize the job you do and the value you bring to your organizations.

That’s the way I see it from where I sit. Of course, I could be wrong.

Springer is president and founder of Geneva, IL-based HERO, inc. and frequently writes and speaks on a wide variety of issues affecting organizations, work, and workplaces. For past columns from Springer, go to From Where I Sit and for future musings from Springer, visit his Web site.


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