The Freedom to Become

Photo credit: Tom Clearwood

Photo credit: Tom Clearwood

I really like the way Bob Sutton writes practical, evidence based management books . I don't know him personally, but we know many of the same people, and I enjoy stalking reading his blog and books when time permits.

In a recent post on The Writing Life he almost deviates for his usual management insights for a little navel-gazing.

According to Bob (and his colleague Steve Barley) "the behavior that people display – regardless of their intentions and the claims they make to others – are the best indicator of both their sense of self and of how others see them".

In other words, 'you are what you do'; a simple concept that also pertains to management.

Managers who spend most of their time working on accounting, marketing, or engineering problems, are not managers. Instead, they are accountants, marketers, or engineers. These are, of course, reputable and important professions. In your professional-identity is encased in one of these professions, you could quite possibly look forward to long and satisfying career.

Unless somewhere along the way someone expects you to get things done through others. That doesn't mean managers and leaders should never 'roll up their sleeves'. Luis Martins, a colleague at UT- Austin, points out that Jim Goodnight still writes code sometimes, yet he has been an extremely successful CEO. He just isn't leading SAS corporation when he does so.

Managers manage and leaders lead (and most do both). And if you are a muggle with leadership ambitions, this concept is extremely liberating. You can become a leader this week. If "you are what you do", you are a leader if you spend time leading even the smallest initiative. So take a chance on something within your reach that is important to you.

This week marks the official release of Scaling Up Excellence by Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao, and I have already added it to my 'To Read' list in NValt. Bob has now written or co-written six management books, two of which achieved the lofty status of New York Times Bestsellers. But he isn't a writer because of his successes. He is a writer because he spends time writing.