Managing is Not the Same as Leading
That’s a pretty simple concept … in writing. The challenge for business the world over is that it’s not such a simple concept in practice.
In practice it gets kind of messy. Here’s a leadership fact for you to consider: it’s seldom the followers who make this mess, it’s almost always the person in the leadership position.
The follower “knows” if something benefits them or not and if their perception happens to be wrong that’s still not a follower mess, that’s just a different leadership mess.
Which brings us to one Marissa Mayer. Her leadership “style” is now being described as unorthodox. That’s a pretty generous description. The reality is that it’s really not leadership in the truest sense of the word. It is a management style and not necessarily a good one at that.
It looks like she is at least a bit of a micro-manager, one who has yet to learn to trust her team. Early indications seem to be that she has a rather narrow view of the type of individual that can bring value to Yahoo. Then of course there is that whole “working from home” thing.
The working from home edict, or more accurately, working from the office only edict, is where things get messy. While it would be easy to describe it as a bold leadership move it not only isn’t bold, it isn’t leadership at all. It is a management decision that reflects the limited leadership currently at the helm. It is a decision that says the leader has very limited influence and one that admits the influence is so limited that it can only happen face-to-face. It is a decision that uses a hatchet rather than a scalpel to address an emotional subject. It is a management decision that imposes a view rather than a leadership decision that inspires a view.
It might even be an outstanding management decision but again, it isn’t leading. By all accounts Marissa Mayer is a very smart person, more than capable of managing even a company of Yahoo’s size and diversity. A person of her managerial skills should be able to slow the decline of the company and even provide several quarters of profitable results.
Companies and organizations are managed to stability, they are led to growth. That’s why I believe the distinction between managing and leading is an important one.
Managing improves the company today, leading improves the company tomorrow and many more tomorrows after that. Managing improves the company’s processes and systems. Leading improves the company’s people. It’s the people who grow a company or organization, not processes and systems.
Every company needs both skilled managers and inspirational leaders. People in leadership positions can hold the false belief that they are one and the same. Authentic leaders know better. They know it’s possible to be both manager and leader but it’s not possible to use one set of skills to do it.
Time will tell if Marissa Mayer made a good management decision with the new work from the office policy. What history has already shown us is that it is a poor leadership decision.