To be successful in today's industry, a combination of both leadership and management skills is required. That sounds easy, but there is one problem - leadership and management are two separate skills.

Leadership is changing for better results; it is challenging the status quo and looking at the long term. Management, on the other hand, is consistency for better results; it is maintaining the status quo and focusing on short-term results. Management is about completing a project on time and on budget. Leadership and management, therefore, seem to contradict each other.


Take a moment to name some leaders. You may think of people like Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Vince Lombardi and Mother Teresa. Or maybe the names of your bosses, teachers or family members come to mind. But would you think of your own name? Probably not.

Usually, when we think of leaders, we consider larger-than-life historical figures or people who shaped our own lives, and we don't include ourselves. Give yourself some credit. You may not be leading large armies or nations, but you are leading your organization. The people in your firm need the same leadership that the followers of Dwight Eisenhower needed. You can be a leader, too.

The real question is, how well do you lead? Consider the things leaders do with their time. Ultimately, these things often revolve around "soft skills and solutions." Leaders set priorities, align people, and motivate and inspire them. These skills do not come naturally to many people in the drilling industry, but they can be learned and taught.

Setting priorities - Priorities establish what it important. An organization can develop its direction in numerous ways. The key is that the leader is involved in setting this process. Someone needs to be thinking about the needs of the group for the long term. That someone is the leader. That someone should be you.

Aligning people - Leaders also get people moving in the same direction. The power of alignment is best illustrated by a comparison between a standard light bulb and a laser. Simplifying the physics, both devices emit electrons of light. In the light bulb, electrons are moving in many different directions, and they are not working together. The laser, on the other hand, is a monochromatic beam of collimated electrons that are all moving in the same direction at the same frequency and amplitude. The result is a highly concentrated beam that has tremendous energy. While a light bulb illuminates, a laser can cut like a knife. Imagine all your people moving and working with a similar focus of energy.

Motivating and inspiring - Most people are motivated by something. You can create an environment in which followers choose to be motivated in support of the direction you have established. You can create that environment by consistently "walking your talk," listening, communicating and offering praise for jobs well done. Remember the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."


Management, on the other hand, is about the "hard skills." Management focuses on the business of the business; it involves planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and measuring. There are far more managers than leaders. But even though these skills are essential to the success of any business, they are not necessarily instinctive.

Managing Plans and Budgets - Although contractors are notoriously weak in the area of planning and budgeting, that is what good managers do. They look at the coming days, weeks or even year and develop plans and forecasts to address what they expect to happen. Planning outlines specific things that the company will do.

Controlling and monitoring - Once the plan is in place, processes must be established to monitor progress. Managers should use these processes to detect problems so they can fix them. These processes can be measures of profitability, productivity, cash flow, etc. In any event, they usually are hard-edged and clearly defined. Drilling is an industry of problem solvers. Contractors are great at identifying things that are wrong and implementing solutions to fix the problems. Unfortunately, they often apply management solutions to leadership problems.

Make the Link

While management and leadership aren't the same, there is a link between them. It's clear that different problems require different solutions at different times. Rather than being mutually exclusive, these two competencies are, in fact, interdependent.

For example, once a leader articulates the intended direction, plans must be put in place to provide concrete ways to move in that direction. Once people have been hired into an organization, the structure of which was defined by a manager, a leader must align those people with a vision. Finally, a leader must motivate and inspire people to overcome the challenges that management processes of controlling and measuring uncover.

Mandate for the Future

The contractor of the 21st century must be better than the contractor of the 20th century. The competitive environment has changed. Owners are more demanding, there is no labor waiting on the bench and margins are thin. However, people who can balance the seemingly contradictory skills of management and leadership are poised to step into positions of increased responsibility and capitalize on these new market conditions. These people and their organizations will then reap the rewards of being market leaders. These rewards are numerous, with better margins through a highly motivated workforce at the top of the list.