Last issue, I wrote that leadership and management differ substantially and that, while both leadership and management are essential to the function and effectiveness of organizations, they are not the same thing.
I also wrote that fire agencies need both competent managers and effective leaders and that management and leadership represent different roles within an organization. However, I noted that managers and leaders aren't different classes of people and that, in lucky organizations, the same person may be both an expert manager and a skillful leader.
It appears certain that our largest wildland fire agencies are locked in a cycle of work-force reduction through budget-driven downsizing, politically driven outsourcing, an aging work force and changing society. Under these circumstances, not only can agency personnel perform both as manager and leader, not only should agency managers lead, but given the shrinking work force, they are going to have to perform both functions and both roles.
Now, I'd like to tackle the management side of the equation. As I reflect on my last column, I am reminded of the importance of crafting and maintaining a personal philosophy of management. Such a philosophy should embody your personal approach to the tasks and activities associated with directing an organization or organizational unit. You might think of your management philosophy as your own personal doctrine, so to speak. A potential employer did me a big favor years ago when the job interviewer asked me what my philosophy of management was. I hadn't given it much thought before then. I didn't get the job, but that interview got me actively thinking about my personal management approach. I've been thinking about it ever since, and encourage both my students and my clients to develop their personal philosophy of management as well.
My own philosophy of management includes five key elements:
Organizations functioning at their best.
Combining competent management with effective leadership.
Managers and supervisors with the appropriate mix of skills.
Let's look at each of these individually.
Organizations are effective when they balance efficiency and effectiveness, concentrating on both “doing things right” and getting the right things done. Another important aspect of organizational effectiveness is striking a balance between producing and preserving your production assets and ability to produce. Best-selling author Stephen R. Covey refers to this concept as “the P/PC balance” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Organizations functioning at their best
Organizations perform at their best when:
- Everyone shares a common view of what the organization does (mission) and where the outfit is going (vision).
- People function at their maximum effectiveness, as evidenced by the fact that the organization's personnel perform their jobs competently, willingly and collaboratively with little need for direct supervision. Over time, the organization's employees develop from dependence to independence and will eventually function interdependently.
Commitment is the accomplishment of the organization's goals by a willing, devoted work force versus a work force motivated by manipulation, coercion, force or fear. An important key to developing commitment is involvement. If you want people to be committed to the organization's goals, they must participate in the decisions that affect their part in those goals. Trust also is an essential element of organizational effectiveness and at the heart of fostering commitment.
Combining competent management with effective leadership
It's possible to succeed by management alone, but truly effective managers, those who contribute the most to their organizations, combine management skills with leadership skills. Demonstrated leadership fosters the kind of commitment described above.
Managers and supervisors with the appropriate mix of skills
Management, including supervision, requires three broad skill areas: technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. As an individual advances in an organization, the appropriate mix of these skills changes. The need for technical skill decreases while the need for conceptual skills increases. The common denominator seems to remain the critical need for human skills at all levels.
Technical skills include specific managerial competencies that contribute to planning and administration, such as information gathering and analysis, problem solving, budgeting and resource allocation, time management, and progress monitoring. Management experts typically regard conceptual skills as those contributing to strategic planning and action, particularly understanding the mission, vision and operational environment of the organization. Human skills include communication and teamwork competencies that enable the manager to convey information and create understanding, create and supervise teams, and manage one's own ethics and credibility.
In our shrinking wildland fire organizations, agency personnel will increasingly find themselves responsible for both the functions of management and leadership and performing both as manager and leader. Considering that, I encourage readers to craft and maintain their personal philosophy of management. By doing so, you create — for yourself — the opportunity to think about your personal management doctrine that guides how you manage and embodies your personal approach to the tasks and activities associated with directing an organization or an organizational unit.
Shaping your personal management philosophy takes an important step toward becoming a truly effective manager, which in turn enables you to simultaneously provide your organization with both effective leadership and competent management.
Mike DeGrosky is chief executive officer of the Guidance Group, a consulting organization specializing in the human and organizational aspects of the fire service. His interests include leadership, strategy, and bringing the concepts of learning organizations and high-reliability organizing alive in fire organizations. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. focused on organizational leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.