Leadership: Leading by Teaching

All employees need skills and vision. If you don't provide them, who will?
Feb 01, 2005
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Sander A. Flaum
Employee training isn't episodic. It is an ongoing daily process. Leaders can't only be great doers, they also have to be great teachers. Remember the old adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"? Forget it. To be an effective leader of people you have to do both.

There is always that cocky manager who says, "I can't be bothered with training staff, I have too much of my own work to do." I say look out—that's a manager who will be quick to blame the new hire for not knowing the ropes at the big client meeting. But whose fault is it? It's the fault of the leader who falsely believes tending her "to do" list is more important than training her greatest assets—her people. And, sad to say, a lot of entrepreneurs don't grasp this truth. They expect their people to come fully formed and trained. It never works out that way. The most successful entrepreneurs, Howard Schultz of Starbucks to name one of many, know that training sets a mission and clarifies the vision to the benefit of the company. In my experience, I have not met any young leader that does this as passionately and consistently as Myrtle Potter, Genentech's COO.

"I'm not here in my role because I am gifted, I am bright, I am this, I am that," she said during a Fordham University lecture series. "If I'm here for any reason, it's because I learned very early on, the number one job we have as leaders is to ensure that we've got capable people working with us, people who are emotionally committed, people who want to get on board, people who can buy into a vision, and people who are willing and ready to give it their all. And once you are certain that you have that, your number one responsibility is to help these people grow, develop, allow them to exceed all of their personal goals and take their careers to the next level."

A mentor is above all a role model. Leaders must model their messages all the time. And nothing speaks louder to your followers than a moment caught "off the record." Billy Shore, former US presidential political consultant turned CEO of the nonprofit Share Our Strength, says that the key moment in any political campaign is when the curtain is lifted and the true identity of the candidate is revealed as a result of some unplanned action. Shore is adamant that all the creative spin in the world cannot rescue a candidate from his own actions at that point. This is incredibly true not just for candidates, but for the leader of any company or organization. The camera remains on even when you think you're off the air. At these moments, even more than the scripted ones, your people are learning what you are all about.

Sander A. Flaum is managing partner of Flaum Partners. He can be reached at

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