Managing and Leading are Different AND Essential

Managers create a map to the water and leaders inspire people to be thirsty. – Steve Keating

I’ve written about this before but recently saw yet another post that claims management and leadership are one in the same. They are not!

The skill sets required to manage are vastly different than those required to lead. The mindset of managing is even more different than the mindset of leading. In a perfect world one person can possess both skill sets and mindsets but great managers can be poor leaders and great leaders can be poor managers. They are simply two completely different things.

An organization thrives when it has both good management and good leadership. Whether it requires two people to provide those or whether the organization is blessed with an individual or individuals who can provide both doesn’t really matter. The key is that BOTH leadership and management must coexist within the organization. Management and leadership do not compete in successful organizations, they complete.

As has been written countless times, people will not be managed, they must be led. We manage stuff, processes, workflows, buildings, contracts, inventories, etc. We should not and cannot manage people.

We need, yes need, management practices and policies in place that guide what people can do, that is a part of management. Good management can save us from ourselves by applying “rules” to the workplace that take into account a bigger picture than most of us can see by ourselves.

However, people who are surrounded by ONLY management feel restricted, constrained and in many cases, untrusted. Their productivity and potential are incredibly limited.

Rules and policies are limiting. If they are in place to control “things” that is fine. But both managers and leaders need to know this simply truth: You cannot really control productive people; you can only control unproductive people. When “management” attempts to exert too much control over people they turn productive people into unproductive people.

Leaders balance out management by influencing people to work within the management guidelines in a positive way. They “lead” people to see and reach their potential while working within a system that benefits everyone.

People need someone or something to follow. They need to feel as if they are part of something bigger, they need to know that they matter. They need to know that their efforts, their work, makes a difference. When they know that what they do is important then their potential is truly limitless. None of that can come as a result of being managed, no matter how good the management may be. It can only come from leadership.

Organizations that mistake leadership for management do not grow, they wither. Managers hold a ship steady, leaders set the course and the people get it to it’s destination.

If you’re unsure if what you’re doing is managing or leading think of it like this: if you’re doing it for the business it’s likely managing. If you’re doing for people it’s almost certainly leadership. There’s the real difference between managing and leading.

So… do you know why you do what you do?

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