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Practice Growth Requires Leadership More Than Management

Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things — Peter Drucker

The most frequent thing I see that holds advisers back from developing their dream business is a lack of vision.

I don’t mean “vision” in the namby-pamby buzz-word sense of having a beautiful set of words on a plaque on a wall that nobody can understand. A clear vision in practical terms means a clear picture in their head of what they want to achieve…what they want their business to look like ….and then to be able to describe it meaningfully to their stakeholders. Clear vision is an essential ingredient of strong leadership – and it is the lack of clear vision which inhibits the leadership of good practitioners more often than not.

Here is an example of the namby-pamby sort of vision:

“Our primary purpose as an organization is to deliver high quality financial products both in appearance and content. We will continue to be known as the firm where personal attention will never become obsolete. We want to employ people who are extremely satisfied and who go the extra mile for clients. We want a culture of growth, profitability and enthusiasm throughout the firm.”

We want enthusiasm? I guess putting it on a plaque will help generate it…

Compare that to this:

“Our vision is simple, but ambitious. We will be the first choice provider of financial advice in XYZ-town, and we will keep doing everything we can to continue earning that right”

The first example is the sort of thing that comes from a management team, probably helped by a consultant or two. The second example comes from a leader.

Management tell people how they want them to behave, and what values they should demonstrate. There is a place for that, especially in a hierarchal organisation. Management is about the efficient use of resources. But that isn’t Leadership.

Leadership points the way forward. It sets the direction.

It should inspire the right behaviours and actions, not dictate them.

There is no doubt that the growth of a practice requires management at some point. There comes a time when there must be some internal focus on efficiency, and the introduction of leverage in the form of staff freeing up the leaders time in order for the leader to get out and keep leading. See what I did there? The Leadership needs to be in place first….

To grow a professional practice beyond a job for the partner, or partners, a clear vision must be established. The leader’s role is then to keep telling and selling the vision to all the stakeholders, and support the attainment of the vision with sound strategy.

This is the most defining difference between those professional services practices that remain jobs for their owners, and those that grow to become something of substance in their community.