, clarity, direction, or leadership; these are topics almost every employee begs of their leaders. More often than not they debate the question amongst themselves and not directly of their leader(s). Yet we all strive for sense of direction as a basis for anchoring ourselves as individuals. Some need stronger guidance than others. Regardless, for an organization to be effective, it is important for its members to understand what is expected of them, where the organization is going; why it even exists. And this has real significance: One of the best ways to improve productivity, which in turn ties directly to revenue, is to have everyone on the same page.

So, while believing most people are good, why is it we have such a problem with leaders providing clarity?

There are at least two basic reasons. First, most organizations simply do not invest in their aspiring leaders. One of the points David emphasized was the need for succession planning. GE exemplified this when Jack Welch left and the entire management impact was immediately announced. Beyond simply knowing who will move into each vacancy though, organizations need to actively develop leaders…ideally through direct-action models like mentoring. In my experience, I’ve only seen trace evidence of this myself.

This leads to the second problem. If organizations do not invest in leaderships what you end up with are a lot of ‘managers’ and very few if any leaders. Yes, there is a difference, a big difference. Managers are tasked with productively employing resources entrusted to them, to deliver a product (or service). This is a tactical activity not involving leadership. Looking higher, leadership is the process of evaluating inputs, taking risks, and deciding on a direction to take.

Without effective leadership, or worse a leadership vacuum, you end up with entire organizations of managers doing what they think is important. Imagine someone in a small outboard (boat), the motor screaming, the boat going in circles, and cavitating (foaming the water) the whole time. Going nowhere real fast, and doing an inefficient job at that. Now imagine a bunch boats in the same lake, only occasionally heading in the same direction at any point in time.

One of my own epiphanies came as a new manager myself. Frustrated at the lack of leadership by ‘my’ boss, it suddenly occurred to me that I might very well have my own team looking at me, whishing their boss would give clearer direction. I resolved to provide better direction for my own teams. Someone needed to provide a sense of direction. The challenge, your own effectiveness as a leader is undermined if your foundation (your boss’ own leadership) is sand.

So, the question today is, are you a leader, or a manager?