~Welcoming Leadership~

What is Most Effective?

Management or Leadership


In my ‘day job’, I work for a governmental health department. I find myself continually frustrated by the top-down, dictatorial management style that is all too common in the United States. As I sat in traffic today, I pondered where this approach has come from.  Is it a sense of need to ‘control’ the work so as to control the outcome? Is it the sense that funds are scarce, and must be tightly managed?   I began to wonder if it is because managers often do not understand the work of those who they are managing. Most managers are trained to be “managers”, not doctors or medical assistants, or even receptionists. Is this the problem? Maybe…..but then I thought of Stephanie Blount, our first Country Director for The Ihangane Project, and realized that it does not have to be this way!

Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Global Public Policy. She is not a physician, an agronomist, or business specialist. Yet, in the two short months since she has been in Rwanda, she has shown immeasurable leadership on programs that range from clinical care for HIV-exposed infants to farming cooperatives and business development for women artisans. How has she accomplished this? She has sat with all stakeholders, asked questions, listened to the answers, developed clear expectations and encouraged empowerment of team leaders. Her ability to lead, rather than manage, has created an effective team of thoughtful and motivated partners who feel respected for the expertise they bring.  Steph does not pretend to know more than those who she is leading. Instead, she allows them to educate her.  

Managers who ‘manage’ may believe that they need to keep employees in line to assure productivity. Unfortunately, this stifles innovation, causes poor morale and creates a mediocre product at best. This is true whether the ‘product’ is a service or a physical commodity. This is the old, dusty way of managing. The wonderful news is that we have “breathes of fresh air” young leaders like Steph Blount who can show us the way out of management and into leadership! ~ Wendy