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My Name is Michael, and I am a Manager

Before you can start down the road to recovery, the addict must admit his problem. If you are a senior NCO or officer, say this with me:

“My name is [your name here] and I am a manager.”

For whatever reason, the Army, the business community, and the entire professional world have decided that “management” and “managers” are dirty words. Managers push paper. Managers create PowerPoint presentations. Managers micro-manage. Managers are...

Bill Lumberg

But we all want to be Leaders. Leaders inspire. Think Patton driving the third Army. Think Vince Lombardi winning the Superbowl. Think Churchill speaking in front solemn crowds during WWII. Think Leonidas leading his Spartans.

Managers go to meetings everyday. Managers spend hours doing email. Managers assemble, or more often, order others to assemble 100 slide PowerPoint presentations. Managers manage numbers, paper and supplies. (Just so you don’t think I’m presenting a straw man, check out this web page that perfectly captures the stereotypical “differences” between leadership and management.)

So here is my question: if you are in the Army, are you the inspirational leader, or the bogged down manager? Everyone wants to be the former, but we spend our time on the latter. We think we lead, but we spend our days doing email, going to meetings and making PowerPoints.

We can’t become better leaders until we figure out that we are managers. Yes, management is a dirty word, but we ignored it and now most officers/senior NCOs/warrant officers can’t manage their time or communications--at the least, few do it nearly as well as they should.

The relationship between leadership and management is symbiotic, like clown fish and sea anenomes. Clown fish fend off other fish that would otherwise eat the sea anemones. Sea anemones protect clown fish from predators. Everyone--post-Finding Nemo--loves and notices clown fish. But without sea anemones literally enveloping and protecting them, they couldn’t exist. Management and leadership go hand in hand in the same way.

We can’t improve until we admit who we are. Most of us aren’t Spartans. But...




When the Army embraces management--by embrace I mean acknowledge at the highest level that its officers and NCOs spend more time managing than leading; by embrace I mean the Army decides to train its leaders on management tasks like time management, communication and subordinate development--the productivity gains will be extraordinary. By avoiding management training--on email, meetings, powerpoint, presenting, organizing, filing, mentoring, coaching--we avoid the easiest/biggest target of opportunity to improve the Army.

We don’t need new vehicles, a new rifle or a new helicopter; the biggest target of opportunity is training our leaders to manage better.

We could have the most inspirational set of leaders in the Army’s history right now. But if we can’t figure out the management, no one will ever know. Tomorrow I will explain how I will try to solve this problem.