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  • Diana Schneidman

All those leaders need doers and that’s where freelancers and consultants come in

Lately I’ve been reading conflicting articles about leadership. But although the observations conflict, they all support a certain conclusion on my end: freelancers and consultants can play a crucial role in implementing work prescribed by leaders.

One viewpoint is from Justin Hopkins. “Pay leaders less and doers more,” he says.

Hopkins recounts his experience working for a UK management consultancy. The firm hired purely for leadership skills and paid recruits well. They confirmed the leadership talents of these individuals through psychometric tests.

But alas, the company closed down within two years due to poor implementation. Upon further analysis of the testing, they found that less than 10 percent of hires were prone to complete projects. There simply weren’t enough people who could finish projects.

Hopkins notes that these leaders were paid top wages because society most values leadership traits. Ambitious people are more intent on proving they should move up the managerial ladder than on carrying out their assignments on the lower rungs.

The Harvard Business Review blog presents a contrasting view of leadership, recommending that professionals be “doing less, leading more” and that this work style should filter down through the organization.

Doing is essential in entry-level jobs, but moving ahead is about demonstrating leadership. The workplace is most efficient the more that those on the executive and managerial tracks push implementation chores as far down the ranks as possible.

For those of us who are doers and have been in corporate situations where multiple people want to demonstrate their leadership savvy and throw their weight around towards a limited number of underlings, it’s kind of a depressing picture of work.

However, it’s lightened up somewhat by the recognition that leaders must be able to lead those who are more technically and analytically adept than the leaders themselves.

In my experience, this is a bitter pill for some executives to manage. They want to believe that their rank in the organization makes them smarter than anyone else around, even to the point that their punctuation and spelling choices are right and that they must micromanage the doers to establish that they are in power.

This can be a very depressing situation for us doers.

Of course the two viewpoints can coexist. There must be both leadership and implementation to get the job done well. The two go hand in hand.

Either way, freelancers and consultants can benefit. The focus on leadership over implementation tends to exclude those who most relish doing from advancement and even from satisfying assignments and positive work environments.

Someone has to implement, and with the attention and resources devoted to leadership and the downplay of doing, there will continue to be a need for freelancers and consultants to do challenging assignments.

With challenging assignments should come respect and income for freelancers and consultants. Assuring that we get both is our individual responsibility and the responsibility of our professions.

Originally posted 9-1-14

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