"You manage things; you lead people." - Grace Murray Hopper
What is the difference between management and leadership? It is a question that has been asked more than once and also answered in many different ways.
Today, we live in an information age where managers have had to shift toward becoming the ones who create the environment that helps empowered, knowledgeable people succeed. What's more, the transition to a service economy has placed less of an emphasis on controlling others and more of an emphasis on the human skills of building strong relationships.
As a result, today's managers, more and more, have to develop some leadership skills. Many people, by the way, are both. They have management jobs, but they realize that you cannot buy hearts, especially to follow them down a difficult path, and so act as leaders too.
The main difference between managers and leaders is the way the two styles motivate people and teams to achieve objectives:
* Leaders set the goals and new direction, challenging the status quo. They are visionaries and spearhead the team, motivating and leading them to reach this new direction.
* Managers on the other hand maintain the status quo, specializing on conformance to the standard, and managing teams and individuals around these boundaries that have been set, organizing and directing to achieve the task.
* Leadership versus management, although relatively easy to distinguish between the two, it becomes complex because we have to be both. The Manager side has to control systems, resources and standards, enacting to keep it all together; while the Leader side has the task of leading teams to achieve uncharted boundaries.
The following eight questions are meant to provoke thought, remembering that most executives need both strong management and leadership skills:
1. Do you think more about immediate results or about mentoring others? Managers focus on the process and immediate efficiency more than leaders do. Leaders think about how they invest their time to develop the strongest talent so that those people can grow and do more over time.
2. Do you think people will be motivated if you pay them enough? Leaders understand that pay is a satisfier, not a true motivator. Once the satisfier is in place at an acceptable level, people are motivated by the nature of the work, challenges, and opportunities to learn and grow; and on whether or not they feel their bosses support or care about them.
3. Do you think having a consistent recognition system is enough? Leaders recognize that everyone is motivated a little differently, and so consistency is not an absolute virtue in recognizing people. Managers emphasize systems more than they do people or personalities,
4. Do you think the best way to build a team is to set challenging group goals? Managers tend to think more in terms of what has been done before and try to make more incremental improvements, while leaders like to challenge people to bring out their best in ways they themselves may not have imagined possible.
5. Do you get the greatest pleasure from making the work process more effective? This is a classic manager's priority, deriving most pleasure from process and efficiency. Leaders enjoy that a lot too, but they tend to enjoy it most when they can help people and organizations grow.
6. Do you spend more time on weaker performers or top performers? Leaders seek to invest their attention on their strongest people and avoid remediation or constant oversight of weaker performers. Managers tend to focus more on problems to solve than they do on opportunities to boost people toward previously unachieved levels of excellence.
7. Do you surround yourself with people who are better at what they do than you? Leaders are all about finding and cultivating talent, and are not threatened by it. Managers may tend to want to feel more in control and know that highly talented people can be very independent and difficult to "manage!"
8. Do you think it's your job to know everything that goes on in your area? Leaders focus more on knowing the people who know what is going on, rather than on the details of everything that is going on,
Demonstrating good leadership skills without the management skills to support it will leave you with an inability to operationalize your visions. Likewise, being a good manager without good leadership skills will cause continual challenges in motivating your team and producing the results you are trying to achieve.
A commonly coined phrase tells us that "leadership is doing the right thing and management is doing things right." This illustrates how the two skill sets need to work together. In order to be fully successful, you must have the ability to manage the day-to-day tasks and deliver results, while seeing the opportunity for change and the big picture.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from northern Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.