This is an interesting analogy, courtesy of Marcus Buckingham, Co-creator of Strengthsfinder. His site is at http://www.tmbc.com
“The best boss I ever had.” That’s a phrase that most of us have said or heard at some point, but what does it mean? What sets the great boss apart from the average boss? What do great managers actually do?
While there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then make the most of it. To simplify, average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess.
The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.
This is the exact opposite of what great leaders do. Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. A leader’s job is to rally people toward a better future. He can succeed in this only when he can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share.
The job of a manager, on the other hand, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. A manager will succeed only when he can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his own way. This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.