by George Carner, USAID Mission Director
Inspired by Prudence Bushnell’s article “From Managing to Leading” I would like to share the lessons that served me best as a USAID Mission Director over a 35-year foreign service career.
I found that moving from management to leadership was a fluid transition. Before assuming senior management roles, I had served as a management intern, a program manager, and a long-range planner.
Working for able leaders, I saw the power of setting inspiring goals combined with following practical strategies around which teams could excel.
Applying these lessons helped me become more strategic as a manager.
Using program and project evaluations and periodic results monitoring furthered this development.
In-service management training and reading about leadership also contributed to my professional growth. As I responded to the leadership challenges, I used some of the same tools to inspire my teams to perform at their peak.
Once my teams were performing driven by their own commitment to mission goals and targets, I was able to look increasingly outward beyond the organization to build external partnerships and support change coalitions. This enhanced my influence.
I also turned more of my attention to thinking about where the organization and our program ought to be a year or two out. The following lessons are drawn from this professional experience and growth.
Lessons as a Manager
- Do things right, i.e. efficiently, on time and on budget.
- Set clear goals and timelines.
- Delineate responsibilities and delegate.
- Set high performance expectations, while being fair and honest with staff.
- Manage for results, informed by sound metrics and good data.
- Allocate one’s own time and priorities smartly, including setting time aside to think, plan and accomplish your personal work.
- Walk or travel around to get first-hand knowledge of operations and people.
- Shape and focus agendas and run effective meetings.
Lessons as a Leader
- Formulate and communicate an inspiring vision that your team helps shape and shares. To inspire, the vision needs to be meaningful and offer improvements if not outright change.
- Devise a clear strategy or game plan to achieve the vision based on explicit objectives and targets defined with team participation.
- Assure that your organization is fit for purpose in terms of the vision and the strategy. If not, re-orient the structure, staff, and resources, as needed.
- Manage change and sustain reforms, in synch with observed impacts and experience. (A good read in this regard is SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath.)
- Lead by example, along with a smile, a kind word, and acknowledgment of the individual at all levels of your organization.
- Solve problems and make sound, clear decisions, assuring the team understands your logic even if not all agree with the decision.
- Credit and celebrate others’ contributions to achieving agreed goals and targets.
- Forge external partnerships to achieved shared strategic goals.
- Be tactful but direct in your relationships. Build trust.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have invited people I know and admire to contribute articles about their experiences with leadership. George Carner and I met in Guatemala. As ambassador I had the diplomatic clout; as head of an ambitious development agenda, he had the resources. Together with talented Guatemalan/American teams, we helped turn the ideals of the Peace Accords into reality
This article is a part of the Marketplace of Leadership Stories series.
- What differences do you see between lessons as a manager and as a leader?
- How does your work culture enable you to practice management? Leadership?
- In what areas do you need to develop your skills and knowledge? What are you going to do about it?