November 2020 – MIT on the work of the future, management v. leadership, real-time performance review, and work on-demand

The difference between Manager and Leader is a topic I bring up in my development programs for participants to reflect on and debate. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this and it gives them an opportunity to articulate it as well as hear other people’s point of view.

Ed Schein has done pioneering work in several fields of management, including organizational culture. In a thread I posted on Twitter, I shared his take on the difference between management and leadership:

Managing is getting something done, stabilizing existing processes, controlling and correcting deviations to ensure quality and reliability.

Leadership is about doing something new or better, whether a simple process improvement or a transformation. It is more about reframing for improvement. It likely calls upon people to learn new skills and shift beliefs.

Our tendency to ascribe leadership to individuals that hold a formal entitlement as head of a team, group, or function is unhelpful when distinguishing management from leadership as activities with different purposes.

Leadership is not the property of a formal position, but rather an activity that occurs anywhere in the company. A person responsible for such a change is therefore in a leadership role irrespective of title.

What do YOU think? And what are you – One or the other? Both?

In the spring of 2018 the president of M.I.T. commissioned a task force to understand the relationships between emerging technologies and work, to help shape public discourse around realistic expectations of technology, and to explore strategies to enable a future of shared prosperity. The Task Force just produced its report titled The Work of the Future: building better jobs in an age of intelligent machines.

Here are its conclusions:

  1. Technological change is simultaneously replacing existing work and creating new work. It is not eliminating work altogether;
  2. Momentous impacts of technological change are unfolding gradually;
  3. Rising labor productivity has not translated into broad increases in incomes because labor market institutions and policies have fallen into disrepair;
  4. Improving the quality of jobs requires innovation in labor market institutions;
  5. Fostering opportunity and economic mobility necessitates cultivating and refreshing worker skills; and
  6. Investing in innovation will drive new job creation, speed growth, and meet rising competitive challenges.

The report calls for raising the minimum wage, broadening unemployment insurance and modifying labor laws to enable collective bargaining in occupations like domestic and home-care workers and freelance workers. Such representation, the report notes, could come from traditional unions or worker advocacy groups. The M.I.T. researchers also recommend changes to tax laws that favor corporate spending on machines rather than workers.

Speaking of managers, if you have not done so already please take a few minutes to complete my management questionnaire. It’s for the book I am writing.

And if you’re really really nice you could invite some of your fellow managers as well.

I am immensely grateful.

A few short items:

  • San Francisco voters passed the ‘Overpaid Executive Tax’. The new law adds a 0.1 percent tax on companies whose executives earn 100 times more than the average worker.
  • Some of my colleagues believe that it’s high time we stop talking about feminine and masculine leadership qualities. Rather they suggest we view leadership as multidimensional, that is, as a set of qualities that all leaders should possess and that they deploy differently based on their organization’s challenges.
  • How do you use a digital talent platforms to access highly-skilled freelancers? Building the on-demand workforce, a report that the Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group have recently released, addresses this.
  • Sobering findings in the Growth Divide Study: while nearly 70 percent of companies still cling to an annual performance review, more than half of professionals say that’s not nearly enough–they want performance check-ins at least once a month. Even more (94 percent) actually would prefer their manager address mistakes and development opportunities in real-time.
  • And for a little self-reflection: How do you know if your career is your calling?

RIP an original – Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos

Tony understood that you can’t build something special in the marketplace unless you also built something powerful in the workplace. To create a passion brand for customers (…) Tony had to sustain a passionate culture among his colleagues.

He built a company culture that was so intense, so outsized, so performative, that it was by design not for everyone, which is why he created his famous “offer” to new employees, who were literally paid to quit (without judgement) if they could not summon the necessary enthusiasm for life at Zappos.

As an entrepreneur, he experimented constantly. And while there was never a master plan, there was always a profound commitment to humane and progressive values: a deep connection with customers, a powerful loyalty to culture and colleagues, a passion for life, a thirst to create. (HBR)


Work: I’m still working on the book. It’s a labor of love 🙂

Music: I got involved in a back-and-forth with several friends on “covers that are better than the original”. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. See you in the Comments section.

Finished reading: A short autobiography of Viktor E. Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Started readingHelping: understanding effective dynamics in one-to-one, group, and organizational relationships by Ed Schein (mentioned above).

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