Finding your leadership mojo.

Author:Knutson, Kevin
Position::Management & Careers

In many local governments, finance officers are seen as cautious and deliberate stewards of the jurisdiction's financial resources, charged with balancing the books and paying the bills. If they are involved in planning and strategy, it's often at the end of the process, to determine whether the government can afford an initiative that's already been developed or to find a way to pay for it. Put simply, many finance officers function primarily as managers rather than leaders--but they can also offer much more.


A good starting point is to look at what management is, what leadership is, and how they differ. Most people who head an organization--whether it's a department or an entire government--see themselves as either a natural leader or a born manager, with many finance professionals leaning toward being strong managers. The success of any organization depends on competence in both roles. Managing and leading require different skill sets and mindsets.

A leader is a big-picture person, the human side of a successful organization. He or she sets the tone, shapes the environment, establishes goals, and motivates people. Leaders can imagine an alternative future for their organization and work to make it a reality.

A manager makes sure the processes of the enterprise function well, using the tools at hand to accomplish results and enforce accountability for the team. Managers tend to like concrete goals, which allow them to check off accomplishments and measure their progress.

Leadership is often seen as the more important trait; we value those who can inspire others to achieve. Management, on the other hand, is sometimes seen negatively as the tedious practice of making other people do things they may not want to do. The truth is that a detail-oriented manager who loves process and performance measures can still inspire others to dream big and accomplish much, and a leader who generates tons of exciting ideas won't be very successful without the ability to translate them into concrete action. Staffers in any department or agency do best when they report to someone who excels at both leadership and management.

Knowing the difference and striving to improve in both roles will help your own personal performance and that of your organization. The best leader has well-developed management skills, and the best manager has well-developed leadership skills. The secret to being more effective is to know your own tendencies and to...

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