It is completely a by chance phenomenon that for the second week in a row the focal point links to the aviation industry.
Sunday evening, I had to leave home to travel to another Canadian city where I am now teaching a five day leadership course. For some reason, when I got to the airport Sunday evening, the security line-up was way longer than usual. In fact, it was the longest I had ever seen it a my home airport, and as such they had added a lengthy cue lineup down the hallway along the wall in the terminal area. Of course as I arrived at the security checkpoint I became frustrated, especially as I discovered that the usual fast track line for business class passengers was closed.
As I waited, and waited and waited, slowly creeping along in the lineup, my thoughts focused on solutions to this problem. I wondered how this could possibly be seen as acceptable by the airport authority. Once I finally got close being directed into one of the few open lines, I acknowledged to one of the staff how busy it was for them and how I imagined his shift was going by quickly. He agreed, and informed that they were dealing with a short-handed staff team that evening, which was partly responsible for the long wait times.
During my last 7 or 8 minutes in line, I took note of three gentlemen on the other side of security wearing suits, and whom all had lanyards around their necks with cards identifying them as being a part of the airport security team. I watched them as they stood there chatting amongst themselves while they watched the long line ups slowly make their way through the various security checkpoints. While they were engaged in some discussion, they were doing a lot of watching. I found myself curious about what they were discussing.
So, once I got through, I oriented myself near enough to them so that I could hear their conversation for a few minutes. What I discovered was that they were bantering back and forth about which staff person they should send on break next. Here there were three men who were clearly in leadership/management roles standing around debating relatively minor, although of course important decisions.
his story is a perfect example of what happens when people focus more on managing than on leading. What these men likely should have been doing, is jumping in and helping out by either opening another screening checkpoint themselves (there were several “closed” lines), or assisting their staff who were busy trying to get passengers through the open line ups. While I recognize there may have been union issues getting in the way of management doing this, a true leader would have stepped in and offered much more practical assistance in helping to resolve the issue.
I see this kind of behaviour too often, particularly amongst novice leaders. They get so focused on managing and making decisions relating to minor issues that they completely fail to lead in the process. What leaders need to do is become more aware of the realities on the ground and how their products and services are being viewed and experienced by the public or the customer. Just about anyone can manage, but not everyone knows how to lead in these challenging circumstances.
Cameron’s Call to Action
If you have a propensity to jump into managing as opposed to leading when you are dealing with challenging situations, you are not alone. However, recognizing and acknowledging this propensity is just one necessary step. If you recognize this, it is time to shift. Take some time to reflect on at least one or more of the biggest challenges you face right now. What are you doing that is tending to focus on managing? Where is there a leadership opportunity that you might not be fulfilling, where you could jump in and lean? Once you have this figured out, take action and lead. There will always be issues you can “manage”, but you must seize every opportunity you can to truly lead. Be sure to share with a colleague or a coach, and request that someone you trust hold you accountable for the shift you are committing to. Leading is much more important than managing!