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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Developing Managers Versus Leaders

The distinction between management and leadership is important because they serve different roles in an organization—and they require different approaches in how they are developed.

The Government Accountability Office has released its updated list of high risk areas across the federal government. It flags for attention the mission-critical skills gap in jobs such as telecommunications, cybersecurity and acquisition. But there is also a growing gap in experienced managers and leaders as baby boomers head for retirement. What approaches are needed to ensure the next generation of managers and leaders are ready?

Understanding Distinctions in Roles

The distinctions between the roles of managers versus leaders have been described by the well-known business writer, Michael Watkins. In a Harvard Business Review article, he says the differences are predominantly shifts in perspective and responsibility from specialist to generalist, analyst to integrator, tactician to strategist, problem solver to agenda setter, or warrior to diplomat (that is, getting things done at all costs versus thinking about future battles and the need for alliances).

While Watkins’ list may imply that managers are lesser beings, I don’t think that is his intent. He is just trying to provide examples of the distinctions, which imply that ...

Speaking While Female

Years ago, while producing the hit TV series The Shield, Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more.

Watch what happens when we do, they replied.

Almost every time they started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought.

Sadly, their experience is not unusual.

We’ve both seen it happen again and again. When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more.

Some new studies support our observations. A study by a Yale psychologist, Victoria L. Brescoll, found that male senators with more power (as measured by tenure, leadership positions and track record of legislation passed) spoke more on the Senate floor than their junior colleagues. But for female senators, power was not linked to ...

How to Influence Your Manager When You’re Never Both in the Same Office

Scott Berkun started his career and spent nearly a decade at Microsoft. He rose to become a lead program manager, running a team that worked on Internet Explorer. But in 2010, he was offered a job at Automattic, the company behind the blogging platform The job, he wrote in his book The Year Without Pants, represented a massive shift from the culture of a big corporation with stack ranking, where employees are rated on a scale and let go if they were at the bottom. At Automattic, most of the 304 employees are remote. Berkun was scared that his personal strengths as a manager wouldn’t translate.

“I was really good at talking to people one-on-one,” Berkun told Quartz. “If there was some big debate, some big issue, I felt like I could always get someone or get a coffee and sort out what was going on, I could read their body language. I was terrified, how do I manage a team effectively when I can’t do that, go face to face, pull them aside, or go in their office and close a door?”

If even managers have that fear, imagine how it’s amplified for the ...

'From Atoms to Bits': A Brilliant Visual History of American Ideas

One night in the the spring of 1983, the scientist Kary Mullis was driving with his girlfriend along Highway 128 from Berkeley to Mendocino, California. As Mullis took in the perfume of California buckeyes swinging their blossoms along the road, his mind wandered back to his job as a chemist. He was thinking about human DNA. Specifically, he was thinking about how to replicate human DNA. And it was there, at "mile marker 46.7 on Highway 128,” as he specified a decade later in his Nobel Lecture, that he experienced that rare and often apocryphal moment of invention—a eureka.

Actually, it was a kind of rolling eureka, a rapid-fire series of bingo moments. Mullis would later name his idea “polymerase chain reaction,” or PCR. It was, to oversimplify greatly, the singular invention that made possible that mass duplication of short sequences of DNA. It is a technology behind cloning, gene sequencing, identifying hereditary diseases, making velociraptors in Jurassic Park, and catching criminals in CSI (both in the shows and in real life). In the 1990s, the London Observer suggested it was the most "momentous idea” of the past two centuries.

But was it, really? Was it more significant ...

The Alarming, Long-Term Consequences of Workplace Stress

By many accounts, America’s workers are both overworked and overwhelmed: Work days bleed into personal time, and some complain about the inability to control, or even plan for their constantly changing schedules. So it’s no surprise that such circumstances can lead to high stress levels, but the reality of career-related stress might be more costly than most workers realize.

A 2015 working paper from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools takes a look at 10 common job stressors: from lack of health insurance, to long working hours, to job insecurity. Researchers then considered how the mental and physical effects of these forms of stress related to mortality. The paper found that health problems stemming from job stress, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, can lead to fatal conditions that wind up killing about 120,000 people each year—making work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.

High levels of stress are costly in monetary terms, too. Researchers found that stress-related health problems could be responsible for between 5 to 8 percent of annual healthcare costs in the U.S. That amounts to about $180 billion each year in healthcare ...