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The challenge of leading leaders


Published:

Whistle

Leaders are made, they are not born. That’s why franchisors need to work to develop leaders among their employees and their franchisees.

The difference between leadership and management is what makes some smart people soar and others sink.

Recently, I observed a few examples of leadership opportunities gone awry. These were situations   in which persons in authority had a chance to lead their team out of a trouble spot or enhance the performance of their team – and they missed their opportunity with varying degrees of consequences.

The first example involved an athletic team. A soccer coach had a committed group of players – some better than others. The coach had an expressed vision for the team: They would be a national champion someday and all players would earn their position each game. As a result, the less talented players had substantially less playing time. The players' parents complained bitterly. In order to quell negative publicity that might chill the interest of new players during recruiting season, the coach started less talented players in the remaining games. The "quick-fix" altered the expectations of the players and created an unexpected result – it was his skilled players who started looking at other teams during recruiting season.

In a second example, a corporate department head was charged with reducing overhead. He asked each of his managers to give input in the creation of a cost-reduction plan that each would be responsible for executing. However, the department head was not confident his managers would carry out the plan, so he went to each manager's secretary and instructed them to review all travel costs and make cost-cutting modifications to the managers' upcoming travel arrangements. The managers, who weren't informed of this, felt undermined and demoralized.  His lack of leadership created conflict between the managers and their staff and the cost reduction plan failed.

In a third example, an opposite result occurred. A restaurant division president, who worked his entire life at the chain, starting as counter staff, had an excellent reputation as an operator, but had earned a reputation for being hard-nosed, boorish and self-absorbed in his executive career. Ultimately his behavior earned him an unwelcome exit from the company. Being unemployed shook him so dramatically that he decided to take steps to change and focused his new behavior on building better relationships. He sought out advisors including other executives for guidance, asking for a 360 assessment from those he valued as mentors and coaches. With their help, the former president obtained a new position as CEO of another restaurant chain. Fostering a strong team internally, he led that company in the formulation of its acquisition strategy, eventually merging with and running his former company.

Joyce Mazero

Joyce Mazero, a partner with HaynesBoone, has served in numerous leadership positions with IFA, WFF and the ABA. She can be reached at JoyceMazero@Haynes Boone.com.

What causes a person in authority to be unable to see that his actions – while expedient – may in response to fear, short-term gain or a desire to avoid a bad result which can cause long-term harm?  What causes another person to face the worst about himself and make tough changes that create the difference between success and failure?

The answer lies in the difference between leadership and management.

Leadership is the process by which a person influences others toward the achievement of a defined goal. The behavior of those following the leader can be voluntary and purposeful, or it can be coerced and borne strictly of the imposition of authority. It's often a blend.

On the other hand, management has a different emphasis. It's not about influence and is normally identified by tactical skills, such as planning, staffing and controlling, with authority being derived from the manager's title or office. While a leader must manage many aspects of business, the leader is recognized as such because of the power and impact of his or her influence rather than title or office.  This is true at all levels of management, top to bottom.

Grace Hopper, retired Admiral, U.S. Navy, captured the essence of the difference between leadership and management. "You cannot manage men into battle. You manage things; you lead people."

Extensive research on leadership behavior has been undertaken for the last half-century.  Some of the best-known studies and research on leadership building has been based on "one-individual-to-another-individual" relationships between a leader and a follower. This research has resulted in guidelines for how both the prospective leader and prospective follower relate to one another. Other theories have looked at variables such as situational factors and skill level focusing as guide posts to which leadership style or course of action is best suited in certain situations.

Understanding what is required in a person in order to be a successful influencing leader has gone beyond studies, being the subject of a plethora of studies, seminars and articles. Career paths of consultants who guide and train companies on how to create a culture that supports and breeds leaders are now well paved. The corporate community is making enormous commitments in dollars and time to this effort.  For the most part, leadership studies and programs focus on the corporate employee as the burgeoning leader. But all of this applies to the franchisor – doubly so – as the franchisor is called upon to foster the leadership potential of its franchisees as well as the employees of both.

Vince Lombardi quote

It would seem to be a given that any franchisor executive would want to create environments and be known for making their employees and franchisees (and their employees) feel they are the heart of the business, not the periphery. And that each believes he or she makes a difference, that work has meaning because of their individual and team contributions and that the business is people-centered.  This would seem obvious because such a culture forces a company to view how it will look and operate in the future, consider how it will be different, determine what kind of people will be needed and evaluate how those talents can be developed – all bringing positive operational and financial results.

As noted by Fielder and Chemers in "Improving Leadership Effectiveness," The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization." Many well-known companies, such as Coca-Cola, Disney, Cisco and 3M, even in the worst economic times, have used leadership development as a cornerstone of their efforts to capitalize on future opportunities and strengthen their brand position. These are companies who can see the best of times can come from the worst of times.

Franchisors are no different. They can cultivate leadership potential in their employees and franchisees with the same importance as they develop operational skills and store performance. 

 Lengendary Coach Vince Lombardi said "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile."

Leadership development can be used as a lever driving the franchisor's strategic agenda influencing communications, focusing behavior and facilitating change.

Some franchisors have fully embraced leadership development as a hallmark of their corporate strategy. All have the opportunity to avoid the miscues and travesties of the failed leadership or lack of leadership and enhance their people, brand and the financial position of the company.

My sense is that franchisors may focus on their team-building and networking exercises more so than the creation and sustenance of leaders. That observation comes from decades of attending and participating in franchise-related conferences and programs.

On the off-chance that this premise has merit, I have proposed the growing of leaders and especially leaders who can grow and lead other leaders as a topic worthy of  discussion.

This article is the first of a number of follow-up articles where will we examine how franchisors today are using leader development as a strategic driver and what resources exist for franchisors to use in evaluating the appropriate leadership approach for their company.

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