Leadership and Management

One of the great things we have going at Benefitfocus is a Management Development Program. We created curriculum that our managers take that leads to a formal certification. We have 99 certified managers.

The benefit of this program is that our managers share a common language and way of seeing our business. We have courses on finance, anticipatory service (our brand of service), interviewing, understanding personality types, identifying talent in hiring, company culture and more. Each manager is required to complete the full coursework to become certified. We have a formal celebration and recognition as groups of managers become certified. This has created a real identity among the group, a commitment to each other and a cross-function respect for each other.

When I was going through school and early in my career, I always thought that “manager” was a very special role. I learned about Peter Drucker, the father of modern management. I read his books, such as The Practice of Management. The concept of measuring things, building repeatable processes and then incrementally improving them to watch the metrics get better seemed so powerful. It still does. That thinking has been a big part of building our management programs and operating our business.

Then there is leadership. Much has been written on leadership. There are so many short phrases that help us understand the concept, such as "the leader innovates," or "the leader sets direction" or "leadership sees around the corner."

In my mind, leadership is pointing. It is pointing to a longer term view. It is looking out past this week and seeing how you want things to be in the future. It is also pointing at current activities and helping teams set priorities, deciding what to stop doing and setting direction.

Leadership is also that inherent trait born into some individuals that just comes out at the right time. It seems that some folks know how to "lead people" regardless of their title, degrees or formal training. Be it charisma, loyalty or inspiration, some people have that "it" quality.

Leadership is both the "on purpose" and "born with" set of characteristics. I love to read about leadership principles. One of my favorite authors on the subject is John Maxwell. I follow him on Twitter and read his books. A couple of his best are The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 360° Leader.

The reason I bring up Leadership and Management is because I believe both are so important to success. I believe both are unique, yet they fit together. If you have one without the other, you get sub-par performance. Yet if you can get the balance right and get that combination of informed leadership with superb management, then great things begin to happen.

Give some thought to both concepts. Consider adding some books on both to your personal library. Research for yourself these subjects, and see how you can apply each to your role. For some reason, people have been lead to believe that they are good at one, but bad at the other. Let me encourage you today that you have abilities in both. The more you learn about them and the more you are around people who are great at both, the more you can develop your unique talents. And the more you develop your abilities as a leader and a manager, the more success you will experience. And the more success you experience, the more success your team and your company will enjoy.