Why Managing People Isn’t Enough


Whether you have one person on your team or a staff of 10 or more, the choice you make between management and leadership will drive your success. Now, it’s not that management and leadership can’t coexist, but there’s a noticeable difference between them. 

Management keeps people employed

Management is organizational structure, processes, hiring/firing, payroll, compensation, benefits, reactive problem resolution and more.

Read more: The Formula for Finding the Right Fit For Your Team

Leadership gets people engaged.

Leadership is proactively fostering teamwork and getting people to buy into a vision, align on strategy, unite on mission and collaborate on execution. It’s everything that’s between doing what’s required and doing what’s inspired. 

I’ve worked with firms that look very similar to one another in most aspects but the ones who consistently outperform and out-deliver their competitors are the ones who have great leaders – not only at the top, but throughout the organization.   

It’s not unusual to hear that leadership is about the intangibles – those things that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know them when you see their impact. People on the team are excited to be at work, they’re positive, grateful, productive and forward-thinking. 

The question is what can advisors who are in a position of leadership do to produce those outcomes that you see in the best firms?

Here are a handful of tangible things you can start doing right now to become a better leader.

Recognize Other Leaders

You don’t need to do this on your own. Leadership takes work and consistency, and you’ll find that it loses your focus at times. The larger the firm grows from a human capital perspective, the more important this becomes. 

Look for other people in your organization who display leadership qualities and be clear with them about the opportunity they have to impact the organization and others when they lead well. Think of the impact of these words in a one-on-one meeting or during a performance review: ”I recognize you as a leader, and I’m counting on you to be an example of someone who is engaged and productive and someone that others on the team look to.”

Read more: How to Harness the Power of Acknowledgement

30-day Action Step: Grade each person on your team for leadership skills.

Pay Great. Expect Great

Stakeholders are the foundation of success for any firm. The firm simply will not operate without them. A great demonstration of trust and leadership is paying people in a noticeable way. 

Good financial advisors expect a lot from their team, as they should. So expect great and pay great. You should rarely lose a person on your team because the pay isn’t worth the work they do. For your existing team, ask yourself what you’d be willing to pay to keep them if they had another opportunity. That will reflect their value to the firm. 

Paying well will also help you attract the best people when you have an opening. This door swings both ways here, so be clear about high expectations and equip people for success. When someone is not a fit, make a change and move forward.  

90-day Action Step: Review salary/bonus structure for your team.

Do the Little (BIG) Things

Don’t assume that things like performance reviews, one-on-one meetings and job titles and descriptions aren’t difference-makers. 

Performance reviews are an ideal way to clearly tell someone where they excel and where they can grow. One-on-one quarterly meetings are a fantastic way to stay in touch with people who desire your leadership. It also gives you, as a leader, an opportunity to check in on goals, ask someone about their career aspirations and ask for their ideas on how the firm can be more efficient and productive. 

Even asking the question, “What can I do to lead you more effectively or help you succeed and be even more fulfilled in your role?” The bottom line is that those things that may seem “little” are never that. They’re a reflection of your willingness to take advantage of every opportunity you have as a leader to get your firm and team to the next level.

60-day Action Step: Hold a 30-minute one-on-one with each team member. 

Get People Involved

Any input is good input because it causes you, as a leader, to consider it and assess its value. A prime example of this is your team retreat. It’s a perfect opportunity to affirm vision, go over results, set goals, build out strategy and address any cultural challenges. 

Read more: How to Get the Most From Your Team: 5 Tips to Running a Successful Work Retreat

So often, as leaders, we ask people on the team to do the day-to-day, but we fail to get them involved in discussions around where the firm is going and the strategies it will take to get there. You should drive this conversation, but don’t neglect beneficial input from your team. 

When everyone on the team knows they have a seat at the table when it comes to important decisions and direction, you’ll see the response. 

6-month Action Step: Conduct a formal team retreat/planning event.                                       


This is, universally, the most prevalent piece of feedback employees give in regards to leadership or lack of it. They want better communication. 

Ask your team what they want to know and how to best keep them informed. If you want to learn the best way to communicate effectively with your team, communicate. Don’t aim for perfection because it won’t happen. Aim for strong and effective.

If there’s someone on your team who can help make this happen by being the “voice” of communication, take advantage of it. They can keep you accountable and meet the needs of your team. 

7-day Action Step: Ask each team member what you can do to communicate more effectively.

If you’ll take steps to be a better leader, people will follow you – to a greater vision, increased productivity, better results and deeper engagement and fulfillment. That’s a win for everyone. Go lead. 

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