I've worked in large organizations where small groups of people are assigned projects of various levels. Managers of each group are given an assignment, and they work diligently to carry it out by delegating tasks and motivating their people to complete each task. One disastrous day when a boss was getting ready for his vacation, he left an assignment for a manager and her team to complete in his absence. He telephoned the manager and told her the project was on his desk. He asked her to go into his office to get it because he didn't have time to bring it to her before he left for the day. In parting, he said, "Good luck! I'll talk to you when I return in a month."
The manager retrieved the description of the assignment and set her people to work on it right away. What she didn't see was the CEO's memorandum to her boss, canceling the assignment altogether. The efficient manager saw to it that the assignment was carried out in record time, and she proudly presented the completed project to her boss when he returned from his vacation. When the boss presented the completed but unnecessary project to the CEO, the CEO was furious and fired the boss.
Clearly, there was a serious breakdown in communications. However, the manager had simply done her job well and successfully worked her team toward the goal. She guided her group through all of the steps necessary to complete the project, constantly thinking of ways to achieve the objective. She didn't know about the memo canceling the project until after her boss presented it to the CEO. Regardless of the breakdown in communication, the manager was commended by the CEO and given a promotion for doing such a fantastic job.
A leader decides what the project is going to be, and delegates it to a manager, who delegates tasks to his workers, who perform the tasks. In a large organization this arrangement works well and different people hold different jobs. When you work or study independently, you do all of the jobs. You lead yourself, delegate to yourself, and doing the work too. My third-grade teacher once told us that to teach us, he had to know just a little bit more than we did. What did he know that we didn't? He knew how to set and reach goals. If he wanted his students to learn the subject, he had to teach and test them. You'll be acting as your own teacher and student, as well as periodically testing yourself on your subject.
It's critical for you to identify your objective. Break down your goals into bite-sized, identifiable parts, and make sure each one is properly attended to. Change hats as you go from leader to manager to worker. Jane, the entrepreneur, decided that her main objective was to sell her product and make a profit. She must also decide what smaller projects have to be completed before that result can be achieved. Jane begins with the manufacturing of the product. After the product is manufactured, she must arrange for distribution and promotion. As a leader, she first assigns each of these jobs to herself as manager. Then she puts on the manager's hat and identifies all the tasks necessary to manufacture the product. She does the same with distribution, promotion, and other tasks required to make and sell her product. She puts on the worker's hat and does each of the tasks that she as manager has delegated to herself as worker. From time to time she'll put on the manager's or leader's hat again to check on the progress.
...excerpt from The Ultimate Lesson