One of the more common conversations I’ve had with entrepreneurs scaling their startup goes something like this:
Me: How are things going?
Entrepreneur: We’re having a hard time with leader X?
Me: Why’s that?
Entrepreneur: It feels like he’s always reactive.
Me: What do you mean?
Entrepreneur: Well, we keep having issues in his department and it feels like they’re things that shouldn’t be issues.
Me: What should he be doing?
Entrepreneur: He should be proactively spotting things that could be potential issues and addressing them so that they they’re non-events.
Me: Sounds like the struggling executive is really a manager, not an executive.
I’ve had this conversation with entrepreneurs numerous times and it’s always the same issue: a person was put in an executive position and they aren’t really an executive, they’re a manager.
Managers see short-term, right in front of them, and are often reactive.
Executives see long-term, around corners, and are proactive.
Managers bring problems forward.
Executives bring solutions forward.
Now, not all managers are like this and not all executives are like this, but the key difference between and a manager and an executive is the ability to see further out into the future and proactively get things done.
The next time you’re having an issue with a leader, ask the key question: are they a manager or an executive?