Moving from Manager to Leader


I was fortunate to attend the National Managers’ Community Development Forum in Winnipeg last month. One of the sessions I enjoyed most, and which created a lot of positive buzz, was given by Merge Gupta-Sunderji on “Turning Managers into Leaders”.

What was great about the session was that it was dynamic and packed with useful information. The session was oversubscribed and people stood or sat along the walls in overflow capacity while Merge kept us completely engaged for over an hour.

Merge started with the idea that “Management is what you do and leadership is how you do it.”  You’ll change how you lead depending on who you are working with but this doesn’t mean you won’t be consistent.

The bulk of the presentation was about her suggested six core competencies for moving from manager to leader:

1) Take a position of continuous learning; you need to take risks to grow.  Merge provided the following quote from her book on how short the “half life” for our education is now.  I found this fascinating:

“In 1946, the “half-life” of an engineering education was twenty years.  In other words, engineers that graduated from university in 1946 found that by 1966, half of the information they needed to know were things they had not learned when in school.  Compare that to the year 2000.  The “half-life” of an engineering education was determined to be less than five years.  So, for engineers who graduated in 2000, half of their knowledge was obsolete by the year 2005. [Gautschi, Ted; Design News; March 20, 2000].”

Merge also noted that we are now training for jobs that don’t yet exist.

2) Keep an open mind

3) Be pro-active – anticipate

4) Make investments in yourself; the only person you can rely on to do this is yourself. We need to replenish ourselves through hobbies, sport, sleep etc.

5) Make investments in others

6) Maintain a positive attitude because negativity is contagious.  You are a role model and you need to “fake it till you make it” and find safe avenues to let out your stress.

This last point was the most controversial for me and it, along with the comments from our Department’s Deputy Minister, Neil Yeates, who said that our job is to “absorb the stress,” generated discussions later in the week that generated a question to a panel of senior leaders.

Bottom line:  How can be authentic leaders when we feel we are being asked not to be human in our reactions to bad information, stress etc.

We ended up getting some very good answers from both Janice Charette (Associate Secretary to the Cabinet and Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs) and Professor Paul Thomas (Professor Emeritus in Political Studies at the University of Manitoba).

While Janice Charette said that the essence of authentic leadership is humanity and being who we are but that having been said, we can’t get captured by the stress. Professor Thomas focused more on the fact that we are entitled to be anxious and have some fear.

I feel really fortunate to have participated in the forum this year as I have a lot of good ideas to think about and implement for the next year.


4 thoughts on “Moving from Manager to Leader

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am surprised that to handle, manage and lead change was not flagged as part of the difference between management and leadership. How does one put a ‘ding in the universe’ (even if a very small one)?

  2. Pingback: Moving from manager to leader | Turning Managers into Leaders

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