Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Manager vs Leader - OODA vs OOPA

I've been doing a lot of thinking, reading, praying, writing and teaching over the last year about leadership. I have also been encountering a lot of blurring in the lines between management and leadership. Many times things that are touted as leadership are actually management skills.

I have watched, admired, followed and learned from leaders who are actually gifted managers in a leadership position. They manage well, but they don't have a compelling vision that they cast everywhere they turn. They aren't blazing new trails (leadership) they are smoothing the current trails and moving along known paths (management).

Over the last couple months I have found two different models of leadership that are so similar that they were crying out to be compared. So, after much pondering and pontificating I have produced a proposition… Here are the two models of action that two different leadership sources suggested.

Observe – look, listen, explore
Orient – pick a direction and face that way
Decide – decide what must be done
Act – do it.

I call this the OODA Cycle – say it outloud, it sounds like Motor Cycle – it defines the thinking loop of decision makers. I have been exploring this model and applying it for the last few months in an attempt to see if it works. It does. But, only recently I have decided that the OODA Cycle is a management model. It is something you do daily, even hourly, to make quick decisions that are good decisions because they are well managed.

This brings us to the other model of leadership which I just discovered in the last week and it has given me a brand new view of leadership. And I like it. OOPA is based, fundamentally, on the skill of a “lucky” gambler. All great leaders have been truly great gamblers. Nearly all of them intuitively follow the OOPA strategy.

Orient – You’re looking ahead, pick a point to shoot for
Organise – Take stock (people, resources, skills)
Predict – State your goal, cast your vision
Act – Fire, roll, hit the gas, do what it takes

This is visionary leadership. OOPA is not a cycle that happens over and over. It is the natural gambling nature of truly great leaders. They see the distant future as if it were right in front of them. They believe the goal is achievable and their sheer audacity and blatant veracity convince those around them that it is possible – even probable – and certainly worth joining the crew just for the sake of the ride!

OODA is the stuff of great managers. It makes good sense and results in positive direction and consistent results. OOPA is the stuff of great leaders. It doesn’t always make sense, it can fail, but when the prediction is right, the success is unprecedented and overwhelmingly compelling.

Great leaders who live the OOPA strategy are few and far between. Great managers who faithfully apply the OODA cycle are rare as well. But, there is a distinct difference between a leader and a manager. And when it comes down to it, it’s the ability – even the desire – to guess rather than to know, to predict from your gut instinct rather than to decide from the hard facts.

The great leader is a gambler. The great manager is a statistician. Both are valuable and necessary. In fact we need more managers in society and churches than we need leaders. But, it is very important to know the difference and to know when we need a manager and when we need a leader. There is nothing more debilitating to an organisation than putting a manager in a leaders position. And nothing more dangerous than putting a leader in a managers position.

So, a few questions that every organisation should ask before filling a position at the top.


Are we looking for unprecedented growth? (Leader)
or
Are we looking for stability in difficult times? (Manager)

Are we looking for increased influence? (Leader)
or
Are we looking for increased reliability? (Manager)

Are we looking for someone with ideas? (Leader)
or
Are we looking for someone with strategies? (Manager)


Are we looking for someone who writes books? (Leader)
or
Are we looking for someone who writes manuals? (Manager)


Do we need to build new momentum? (Leader)
or
Do we need to maintain our momentum? (Manager)

Do we need tomorrow’s thoughts ahead of time? (Leader)
or
Do we need yesterday’s wisdom reworked? (Manager)


Do we need a new heart? (Leader)
Or
Do we need a renewed mind? (Manager)