Leadership is futile if you are not willing to manage for outcomes

This blog always had a combined section on Leadership and Management and I am glad that it did when I read True Leaders Are Also Managers by Robert Sutton. For some reason leadership is equated to a grand "vision" of "doing the right thing" and management is seen as the more mundane "trenches" where implementation happens and "doing things right" is seen as tasks that anyone can do. But guess what-  management is what puts leadership into action or when the rubber hits the road. As Robert Sutton mentions organizations are full of leaders who put out a vision without having a sense of either the rubber or the road.They expect their reports  to implement and when things don't work out the reports are considered incompetent and might actually be replaced. This goes on for a few cycles till the Board of Directors realize and replace the CEO/particular C-Officer and this time hopefully the new CEO gets a better sense of implementation issues before pushing a grand vision.

And hey, this blog truly supports 'grand visions'- just that the leader must always have  a better first-hand sense of the road-map and ensure  that the road-map does reflect the terrain. Here is how the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the Chief Supply/Procurement Officer (CSO/CPO) can make sure that their leadership gets management  traction:

  • If you are a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of say a consumer product organization take the effort to visit your distributors and yes take the truck route with the salesperson to retailers. See for yourself how shelves are stocked and how the point of sale materials your ad agency dreamt up is actually displayed on the retail floor. Similarly, on the research and insights side tell your research manager or agency that you'd like to watch in on the next focus group or stand in with the mall intercept interviewers. Observe and "do" yourself where possible and you'll find yourself sharpening your leadership vision while earning the respect of both your reports and troops besides the folks at  the ad and research agency. 
  • If you are a Chief Supply/Procurement Officer (CSO/CPO) visit with users internally. When I say users I mean the machine operator who uses direct raw material or the secretary who changes the indirect toner cartridge on the printer. See the "product in use" that your people buy and ask these users for experiences and feedback. Do the same with suppliers when they come to meet your buyers. Take the time to visit a supplier's plant if you are in town for say a conference. You'll be amazed at the insights you gain and how you are able to re-frame your supply leadership vision with elements that can really happen on the ground. In addition, your users-buyers-suppliers will know that you are trying to understand and that alone will hugely improve things.

Are these obvious things to do? Not really as there are just too many examples where both Marketing and Supply Chain Leaders operate from high in the air, while the CEO and Board wonder  why initiatives don't materialize in outcomes.

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