Producer/Manager/Leader: The New Leadership Paradigm

© Lisa Prior

In the world of the Producer/Manager/Leader, the lines are blurred between roles and activities.

Early in your career, you were primarily a Producer, and your role was clear: produce a deliverable, a deal, or discovery. Your primary goal was to give focused attention to the task at hand.

As others recognized your success and growing expertise, you were promoted to Manager, directing the efforts of people on projects or programs or operations. You juggled the demands of your Producer role, which never seemed to fully diminish, by delegating to team members and direct reports.

Now you are a Leader. You’re called upon to chart a vision and direction for your group while aligning with corporate goals. You’re held accountable for financial results, market penetration, product pipelines, quality and compliance improvements, and break-through innovations that help your organization hold onto (or break into) market leadership. You’re asked to build culture, create context, motivate and energize a workforce that’s often under-resourced and struggling to maintain its own work-life balance. And you’re still asked to Produce and Manage.

How can you do it all and still succeed?

These three simple activities will help you begin to master this new leadership paradigm:

1. Recognize that you’ve been working under the Producer/Manager/Leader paradigm.

The shift from the linear, straight-flowing leadership pipeline paradigm to the Producer/Manager/Leader paradigm has advanced like the tide. Changing technologies make innovations, efficiencies, and communications faster and more urgent: it takes skill to navigate priorities.

The way to succeed is to let go of the idea that you play just one role, and that you’d be more effective if only you could delegate more effectively. Your lifeline is your ability to shift mindset and hold onto the idea that your job is now to simultaneously produce, manage and lead .

2. Learn how to triage your Producer/Manager/Leader roles.

Before you write your weekly or monthly task list or action plan, take five minutes out of Monday morning (or Friday afternoon or weekend) and do an analysis of where you’re spending your time. Which role are you emphasizing, Producing, Managing or Leading? Is that the best way to spend your time given the priorities and goals facing you and your group? Here’s a quick triage activity:

Write a list of the major tasks, meetings, and activities facing you in the upcoming weeks. If possible, put them into groups.

Identify each task, meeting or group of activities as Producing, Managing or Leading. Example questions to ask yourself include:

  • Am I the one to do this job? (If “yes,” then this is a Producer task)
  • Does this require my close management and planning? (If “yes” then this is a Manager task)
  • Is this a big picture issue requiring communicating vision, ensuring focus or motivating people? (If “yes,” then this is a Leader task)

Reflect on your results.

What is your real profile? (E.g. Where are you spending the majority of your time? Where is the tension between roles?)

What is your ideal profile? (E.g. Is this the most effective way to spend your time in the upcoming weeks?

What can you change or do differently?

3. Become expert at shifting between roles.

The right answer to where you should spend your time depends on various factors: the competitive landscape; the urgency of your goals; the size and capabilities of your team; and your own interests and career aspirations. (This last one may surprise you, but let’s not underestimate the power of our own “me” issues: the truth is that we each naturally gravitate to one of the P/M/L roles whether we are conscious of this dynamic or not. It’s always better to make conscious, informed decisions.)

If you need to emphasize your Producer role: What mechanisms do you have in place for managing and leading? Where will your team go for trouble-shooting and direction if you are tied up creating your own deliverable, analysis or discovery? And by the way, are you really sure that you’re the only one to do this task?

If you need to emphasize your Manager role: What’s not getting done that only you can truly do? Where could you lose the forest for the trees while you’re busy managing people and details of a project or program or operation?

If you need to emphasize your Leader role: Are you at risk of being all “talk” and no “walk”? What will be needed to operationalize your vision or direction, and to make it tangible and believable?

Successful Producer/Manager/Leaders have learned to develop other key skills, including:

  • Becoming expert in reading culture and managing change.
  • Using coaching as a tool for increasing effectiveness and shifting between roles.
  • Learning how to Produce/Manage/Lead in two universes, leveraging today’s Web 2.0 technologies to work across organizational boundaries and workforce generations.

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