Where Management and Leadership Skills Meet

I have written several times on the vast difference between managing and leading. Managing is about “stuff’, budgets, inventory, buildings, executing plans, etc. Leading is about people and only about people. 

 

Simply put, if you’re doing it for your business it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people then it’s leadership. 

 

When what you’re doing is good for the organization AND a person or persons it’s what I call Manleaship.

 

The skill sets and more importantly the mindset of managers and leaders are almost completely different. It is very common in business that a person is either a manager or leader but not both. 

 

A business or organization that has people with good management skills and other people with good leadership skills can do okay, but only okay. A business or organization that has a person, or hopefully people, who have good management skills combined with good leadership skills can do better than okay…much much better. 

 

Managers likely know and understand the skills and abilities of their people. Managers, and I DO NOT mean this in a negative sense, tend to look at their people as assets or resources which in some sense they are. But leaders, especially Authentic Leaders and especially, especially, Authentic Servant Leaders look at their people as people, living breathing people with wants and needs, and challenges with a life outside of the workplace.

 

Managers and leaders have a different, sometimes very different, view of the same picture.

 

If a business or organization is going to do more than just okay then they need to make sure each person within their organization is in a position or performing a role that allows them the greatest chance for success. Some leaders and managers seem to forget that they and their organization cannot be successful if the people who make up the organization are unsuccessful. 

 

Never forget, as a leader or a manager you will never be more successful than your people.

 

So imagine how hard it is to help people succeed, to place them in roles with the greatest chance for success, when you only see one view of their picture. Throughout my career I’ve seen friends, family, and colleagues promoted or placed into positions where they had no chance to be successful. 

 

They may have had all the skills needed to excel but they did not have the temperament. Their physical and mental skills may have been excellent but their people skills simply didn’t measure up. Perhaps they had outstanding human relation skills but lacked some vital skill in another area. 

 

A pure manager or a pure leader could easily miss those critical facts. 

 

A person with both skill sets, or Manleaship skills likely would not. 

 

The combination of management and leadership skills may not be needed all that often but when it’s needed it’s really needed. So if you’re at or near the top of an organization that hasn’t been blessed with people who possess Manleaship skills then you need your managers and leaders to be talking with each other everyday. 


Who knows, that endless conversation may just result in them sharing their skill sets and you could end up with lots of people with Manleaship skills. Then you’ll be doing way better than just okay!

What Great Leaders Know

There are so many differences between a person who manages and a person who leads that I could write on that single topic almost exclusively. Great leaders know those differences well.

To be clear, the skill set of a manager is very different than the skill set of a leader. The mindset of a manager is vastly different than the mindset of a leader. To be clear as well, both managers and leaders are critically important for the success of any organization. It is hard to say one is more valuable than the other because without both an organizational will eventually fail. To be crystal clear, there are many people who possess both skill sets, there are far far fewer people who possess both mindsets. 

Managing is about “stuff” and leading is about people. Budgets are managed, inventories are managed, systems are managed, “things” are managed. Leading is solely about people and the singular focus of truly great leaders, at least during those times when they are actually leading, is their people. 

Managers can help people accomplish more for the good of the organization, managers can even motivate people. Many managers in fact look like decent leaders. The only thing missing is the motive of true leadership. The motive of true leadership is to do the right thing for the people simply because it’s the right thing to do. That’s where the mindset comes in.

Managers who look like leaders have the ability to get the compliance of their people. They set up a sort of transactional leadership model that says to their people “you’ll be fine here as long as you do what you’re asked.” Implied of course is the fact that when you stop doing what you’re asked then you won’t be fine anymore. That’s where compliance comes from.

Most people in an organization will in fact do what they are asked. The problem is that most “managed” people will do little more than what they are asked. They can appear to be engaged in the organization and engaged in their work when in fact they are more likely just putting in their hours.

True leaders, great leaders, have no need for the compliance of their people. They earn the commitment of their people and commitment far outweighs compliance. They earn it by putting a relational leadership model on full display. They build real relationships with the very real people they lead. They build them by showing that they care about people.

This doesn’t mean they have to become best buds and hang out together every weekend. A relational leadership model simply demands that the leader truly cares about the people they lead. They understand, they fully and completely understand that “stuff” is managed and people are led. 

The mindset of a manager is “we need to get this done,” the mindset of a leader is “we need to get this done in a people valuing way that builds people up and helps them reach their full potential while getting it done.” 

When we manage people every task is a “one off” exercise and managers find themselves telling their people the same things over and over. Every time a manager asks their people to do something it’s as if they never asked them before.

When we lead people every task is a learning exercise and because the people are committed to their leader they willingly repeat the task again and again without being asked over and over. 

Managing people helps them understand that the work is important. Leading people helps them understand that while the work is important they are more important. 

This sounds worse than I mean it to sound but managers use people to get the job done. Leaders develop people to get the job done. The different motives come directly from the different mindsets. One has immediate short-term impact and one has more patient potentially endless impact.

Make no mistake, people can build semi-successful careers by trying to manage people but people who lead people build more than careers, they build legacies. They build those legacies by building people who become great leaders in their own right. 

You can either be a manager or a leader, if you’re truly blessed you can even be both but your success and the success of your organization will ultimately depend on you understanding the vast difference between the two.

Managing Stuff, Leading People

Generally speaking, people get promoted because they did something good. Salespeople get promoted to Sales Manager because they were good at selling. A marketing associate gets promoted to Marketing Manager because they had proven themselves to be good marketers. An engineer might get promoted to manager because they designed stuff that worked well and was marketable.

All three of those individuals were promoted to leadership positions and none of them were promoted because they were skilled leaders. Now, they may be good leaders…or they may not, only time will tell.

Here’s a reality of leadership: the vast majority of people are promoted into leadership positions without having demonstrated even a slight ability to actually lead. Many are promoted into leadership positions because they have demonstrated some ability to manage but leading and managing are two entirely different things.

You manage stuff like budgets, inventories and buildings but you lead people. The skill sets are different and more importantly the mindsets are different, in fact, they are completely different. Some people can master both skill sets but that’s less common than many people think.

The biggest mistake a person newly promoted to a leadership position can make is to believe that just because they were good at selling, or marketing or even because they were good at managing, is that they are automatically good at leading.

The saddest thing is that even people who have occupied leadership positions for years still sometimes believe that.

Your position or title doesn’t make you a leader. Even being a good manager doesn’t make you a leader. Running a business, effectively managing every detail, and making money at it, doesn’t make you a leader.

Only leading makes you a leader.

Leading requires that you fully understand the value of people. Leading requires that you understand the unique ability of every individual you would lead. Leading requires that you actually care for those individuals.

This is kind of an aside but here’s one way to determine if you’re talking to a manager or a leader: When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important. That “feeling” makes all the difference in the world.

Leading requires that you have the vision required to see the consequences of the consequences of the consequences of every decision you make. It can sometimes seem as if a good leader can see into the future but the truth is, they don’t see the future, they create it.

Let’s be clear, I am not minimizing the importance of good management in any organization. Good management is essential to the stability of every kind of business but management does just that, it keeps things as they are, stable. 

Leadership is not about stability, it is about growth. Leadership is about change for the better. While managers can fall into the trap of believing that strong management can improve a business, leaders know that nothing improves without something changing and they drive that change.

Many more businesses fail due to lack of leadership than fail due to poor management. Think about it, do you really think that businesses like Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster Video, Circuit City, Howard Johnson’s and Borders Books, (to name just a few) suddenly lost the ability to manage their business? 

They didn’t lack sound management, they lacked the vision that a true leader brings to an organization. They lacked the ability to rally their people to a cause. Their people couldn’t commit to the leadership because they couldn’t find any leadership.

I could write forever on the differences between managing and leading but for now I’ll just say this: the first step to understanding the difference between managing and leading is to understand that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. The difference is not just semantics, the differences are real, concrete and definable. 

Once you understand that basic fact then and only then to you have a chance to truly lead.

Managing People

The first thing to keep in mind when managing people is that if you’re doing it then you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong because you shouldn’t be doing it at all. People will not and can not be managed. 

You manage stuff, stuff without feelings, stuff without opinions, stuff that does not have the ability to think for itself, stuff that doesn’t have emotions. People ain’t stuff! 

With all due respect to some very smart people who say the difference between managing and leading is just semantics I’m sorry to tell them that they are seriously seriously wrong. It’s not a difference of opinion, it’s not just “how you look at it,” and it’s most certainly not merely semantics. The difference between managing and leading is as great as the difference between night and day.

Some people, very very few but some, have the aptitude to both manage and lead. Many people are placed in positions where both skill sets are required and those people struggle mightily. They struggle because the mindset of a manager is so vastly different than the mindset of a leader. 

Managers have subordinates while leaders have followers. Managers seek to control while leaders seek to influence. Managers work with solid data while leaders revel in the abstract. 

Managers use their tenacity to get the job done while leaders are using their imaginations to determine what the job should be. Managers are required to focus on today while leaders are looking ahead to tomorrow and beyond. 

A manager’s thinking typically focuses on how to get the most out of the workers they have. A leader’s thinking is typically focused on how to help their people grow, both professionally and personally. 

A manager “spends time on employees” to ensure requirements are met. A leader “invests time with people” to ensure that their people have the opportunity to excel. 

I throughly dislike the term “human capital” that is so often used by Human Resource professionals. There is nothing actually wrong with the words, it is the mindset that goes with them. The mindset is one of managing people and managing people is truly impossible. The mindset of managing people is actually the cause of most of an organization’s “people problems.”

Those two words should never be next to one another. We manage capital and we lead people. When they two words are used together the capital word “wins” and the people word is either minimized or forgotten altogether. That’s the genesis of many many personnel issues.

For those of you who still think managing and leading are one and the same I’d like you give a motivational talk to your inventory or budget right now and see how they respond. 

If that sounds crazy to you then you get my point…it really is crazy to talk to stuff but it’s no more crazy than trying to manage human beings. You can’t lead things and you can’t manage people because leading and managing are not interchangeable.

Authentic Leaders understand the difference between managing and leading and never try to substitute one for the other. Do you?

When Managers Don’t Lead

Few things in business are more costly than a manager in a leadership position. – Steve Keating

Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. 

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager. 

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. We’re not talking semantics here, we are talking about a difference as large as night and day.

Managers use a microscope and leaders use a telescope. Managers examine the details, vital details yes, but details all the same. A leader not only sees the details they also see the much bigger picture, they see the wide angle view. While a manager sees what is, a leader sees what could be…and what should be.

Managing is about stuff, budgets, inventories, processes, etc. Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. Better management helps a organization survive, better leadership helps an organization grow. 

Successful organizations need both leaders and managers. Which one, managers or leaders, are more important is like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. (Just an aside, if you really want to know which one came first read Genesis in The Bible, it’s abundantly clear that the chicken came first.)

When managers occupy a leadership position without actually leading progress slows down. It can slow down so much that it actually stops. Whenever I see a business that is not growing I almost always see a manager in a position of leadership. 

Good managers can learn to lead after moving into a leadership position. The longer they try to manage when they should be leading the less likely they are to ever truly lead. The most successful leaders were leaders before they had a true leadership position. They understood that leadership was more about their disposition than it was about any position they may one day achieve. 

Some leaders have other leadership positions reporting to them. They must be certain that  leaders occupy those positions. 

Putting managers into leadership positions is a common mistake. It a mistake that produces common results rather then the uncommon results that the most successful organizations use to succeed again and again.

That makes it an incredibly costly mistake.

 

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?