Toddlers, teens or adults? The art of leadership is to know how few times the leader should actually make the decision.
Managers make decisions. Leaders get others to do it as often as they can because none of us is as smart as all of us.
We could virtually do away with managers if they would just lead instead. I believe we could replace at least every five managers with one leader, and possibly ten to one in many businesses. "15 of the top 20 reasons people leave their job involves middle managers. Think how much more profitable (and fun) it would be to eliminate middle management all together.
Modern management is traced back to Frederick Winslow Taylor's "Scientific Management Principle" from 1903 and 1911, that assumes employees are a) stupid and b) lazy, and therefore we need smart and motivated people to manage the stupid and lazy ones.
In a good business you don't need managers because the leader doesn't believe people are stupid and lazy.
Leaders get out of the way. Here's how to move from managing to leading. As you are having a conversation with a Stakeholder, ask yourself these questions, which move from Problem through Question to Solution :
Chasing Three Years Olds Around the Store Did I have to chase them to find out they had a PROBLEM ? That's the lowest level of management - running around finding out other people's problems. If you do that, you have a bunch of toddlers working for you, and you're the one who made them that way by chasing them around. Stop it.
Managing Eight Year Olds Did they come and find me with a PROBLEM ? Not much better. Children come whining to their parents that Johnny hit them. You've trained them to do it. Stop it.
Managing 13 Year Olds Did I have to figure out the right QUESTION ? Asking the right question is 90% of getting the right answer. Anybody can identify problems, but if they aren't asking the right questions to fix them, they aren't adding much value. If you have to form the right questions, you're not leading, you're managing. Stop it and get others to form the questions.
Managing High Schoolers Did they bring me the right QUESTION with no solution? You've taught others to not think; you're the only one bright enough to solve things. Require that they come up with solutions.
Managing College Kids Did they bring some possible SOLUTIONS for me to pick from? We're getting there, but still you've taught them to not take risks and actually solve things. They're afraid to fix things because you've taught them only you can do it, because you're more experienced and less likely to do something stupid. You forget that you had to make mistakes. If you are ever going to have someone else in your business that can lighten the load, they need to take risks and make mistakes, too. Stop being a control freak and teach others to lead by letting them solve problems WITHOUT YOU.
Managing Adults Did they bring me a report on how they SOLVED something? Guess what, you're a leader. You can now focus on the business of building a great business instead of creating stupid and lazy people by all your managing.
Moving From Manager to Leader
You should be asking these questions every time you talk to someone, with the objective of getting to "Managing Adults" as quickly as possible (might take a year or more, depending on how long you've been chasing the toddlers).
If you want to run a day care center, it's your option. People aren't stupid and lazy and they aren't children. You make them that way by managing them. Stop it. And if some of them decide to not grow up, kick them out of the house and get others who will be adults. You'll all have a lot more fun, and make a lot more money - with no managers.
You should lead no matter what the size of your business.