Last week's article The Leadership Checklist: 10 Principles That Make Leading Easier, generated some interesting thoughts as shared through various social media outlets. Many readers tended to hone in on the point made in the piece about the difference between leadership and management.
As you may recall, I had noted:
"There's a difference between leadership and management. Leaders look forward and imagine the possibilities that the future may bring in order to set direction. Managers monitor and adjust today's work, regularly looking backward to ensure that current goals and objectives are being met. The best leaders lead and let their management teams manage the work at hand."
Because of the interest, I thought I would explore the point a bit more in this article.
Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between those responsible for leading a business and those responsible for managing the work within it. While managers can certainly lead and leaders can certainly manage, the skills required to be good at either one are separate and distinct.
What follows are ten of the most important distinctions to note. Regardless of which role you currently play, understanding these key differences between leading and managing may help you become better at your job:
1. Leadership inspires change, management manages transformation.
A leader must set direction and inspire people to follow them. The process of following often requires great change. This is where strong management comes in. It's the manager's job to oversee the work needed to implement the necessary changes and realize the organizational transformation set forth by the leadership.
2. Leadership requires vision, management requires tenacity.
A leader needs to envision what the business is to become. A great manager must have the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve the goals set forth by the leader.
3. Leadership requires imagination, management requires specifics.
A great leader can cultivate their imagination to inform their vision. It helps them to "see" what can be. Managers must understand that vision and drive their teams to do the specific work necessary to accomplish what has been expressed.
4. Leadership requires abstract thinking, management requires concrete data.
By definition, abstract thinking enables a person to make connections among, and see patterns within, seemingly unrelated information. The ability to think abstractly comes in very handy when reimaging what an organization can become. Conversely, a manager must be able to work with, and analyze, concrete data in order to ensure optimal results.
5. Leadership requires ability to articulate, management requires ability to interpret.
A good leader can describe their vision in vivid detail so to engage and inspire their organization to pursue it. A good manager must interpret that stated vision and recast it in terms that their teams can understand and embrace it.
6. Leadership requires an aptitude to sell, management requires an aptitude to teach.
A leader must sell their vision to their organization and its stakeholders. They must convince all concerned parties that what is envisioned is achievable and provides greater value than what is created by the business today. In keeping, a manager must be able to teach their teams what must be learned and adapted to attain the stated vision.
7. Leadership requires understanding of the external environment, management requires understanding of how work gets done inside the organization.
A leader must understand the business environment in which the enterprise operates so to better anticipate opportunities and evade misfortune, while a manager is relied on to figure out how to get things done using the resources available to the business.
8. Leadership requires risk-taking, management requires self-discipline.
A leader will take educated risks when setting a strategic direction for a business. Managers must have the self-discipline to stick to the plan for realizing that strategic direction so to ensure that the strategy comes together as planned.
9. Leadership requires confidence in the face of uncertainty, management requires blind commitment to completing the task at hand.
A leader's life is filled with uncertainty. They're setting a course for their company in unchartered waters. Once the course is set, managers are duty-bound to follow the stated direction and commit to delivering the results expected.
10. Leadership is accountable to the entire organization, management is accountable to the team.
Finally, leaders must consider the impact of their decisions on the whole organization. A misstep can bring an entire business to its knees. It's a huge responsibility. Accordingly, managers are responsible for their teams. They must ensure that their teams are prepared to deliver and that each member is equipped to do what is required for success.
Indeed, there are important differences between leading and managing. The best leaders lead and let others manage; the best managers understand their leader's vision and work with their teams to achieve it. Your business needs people with both kinds of skills and aptitudes to secure enduring success. Take the time to understand these differences so to build an organization that leverages each to the fullest.
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