Leaders in Name Only

I haven’t written about this topic in a while but it remains timely. Sadly, I’m afraid it will always be a timely topic because there will always be individuals who occupy positions of leadership with no clue as to what actual leadership looks like. 

They are managers who may or may not even be attempting to lead. So, before we go any further let me say loud and clear, with no doubt whatsoever, that managers and effective management are vital to any organization that hopes to grow or even survive in these times. 

However managers and management are vastly different than leaders and leadership. Both are essential for long-term success. The challenge for many managers and management teams is that they make the mistake of thinking that what they are doing is leading. It is often not. 

Sometimes, hopefully most of the time, good managers are good leaders and good leaders are good managers. Being effective at both requires that you understand the difference between the two. 

Managing and management is about a whole host of things. THINGS, as in inanimate objects and stuff. You manage things like property, inventory, buildings, plans, and budgets. If “it” can’t think for itself and is incapable of becoming emotional when you yell at it (a copier comes to mind) then you manage it. 

Leading and leadership is about people. Only people. All people. You lead people. You don’t even lead a company, organization, or team. You lead the people who make up that company, organization, or team. 

No, I’m not splitting hairs here. The difference in mindset between someone attempting to manage people and someone actually leading people is huge. Attempting to manage another human being as if they were an inanimate object is the cause of the vast majority of personnel problems within organizations. 

I’ve known very few managers who thought they were treating their people as inanimate objects. But how the manager feels they are treating their people is of little importance. How the people feel they are being treated will determine whether or not they have a chance to reach their full potential. If you’re not interested in helping people achieve their full potential that’s a sure sign you’re a leader in name only. 

Most people don’t read the owners manual that comes with the “stuff” they buy. That’s kinda how a manager attempts to lead people. “Seen one ya seen ‘em all” is a manager mindset. They manage all their buildings the same and they manage all their people the same too. 

Leaders read the owners manual for everyone of the people they lead. They know that every single person they lead is a unique individual with their own set of goals, objectives, hopes, dreams and yes, problems. 

They get to know their people because they care for them as people. They want them to succeed, they want them to grow. They know that their own success as a leader is completely dependent upon the success of their people. 

So while the manager may “spend time on” their people the leader “invests time with” their people. The difference in how people respond is like night and day. 

We could go on and on about the differences between managing and leader but I’ll spare you for now. Let me however leave you with a couple of questions to consider. First, do you understand, really understand the difference between the two? What would your people say if I asked them? 

The second question is key because when it comes to leading an Authentic Leader knows it is the followers who make the leader. If your people don’t see you as a leader then you have some work to do cause if you’re not leading they aren’t following. No matter what you tell yourself. 

Managing vs Leading – Part Seven

People in leadership positions who attempt to manage their people use their head to get good things done. They expect their people to use their head as well. They are more manager than leader.

People in leadership positions who actually lead use their head and their heart to encourage their people to accomplish great things. They are as concerned with their people’s heart as much as their heads. They are more leader than manager but they are often excellent managers as well. However, they do not manage their people, they lead them.

People in leadership positions who attempt to manage people are so focused on what needs to get done that they forget it is people, real life human beings, who will get that work done. That causes them to often treat their people as something rather than someone.

Leaders lead. The need neither a leadership position or title to do it. Their first priority is the people who will do the work, not the work itself. They invest the time required to understand how their people think and why they think that way. They know their hopes, their challenges and their goals.

They help them in any area they possibly can. They will compassionately confront them when that is what is needed for them to succeed. They coach them. They mentor them. They care for them.

They do not tell them what to do, they show them. They model successful behavior. They hold their people to high standards and hold themselves to even higher standards.

Leaders who lead earn the commitment of their people. That commitment leads to increased productivity and extraordinary results.

People have hearts and it’s those hearts that truly need leadership. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not leading your people then don’t expect them to put their hearts into their work. They may indeed use their heads to do good things but greatness will elude them. It will almost certainly elude you as well.

Managing vs Leading – Part Six

There are several key differences between people who hold leadership positions and people who actually lead. As I’ve said frequently in this series people who hold leadership positions often attempt to manage their people. Leaders, whether they hold a leadership position or not, actually lead people.

Leaders who lead develop a Followership. Leaders who attempt to manage people hope to create subordinates. The difference is huge.

Subordinates comply with the demands, directives and requests of the boss. Sometimes they comply willingly and sometimes not. Sometimes they flat out resist the directives. In worse case scenarios they work against their boss and become a cancer to the entire organization. They frequently draw other team members into their sea of discontent.

At best a person in a position of leadership who attempts to manage their people can expect a mediocre level of performance. The development of their people is stunted and their potential is limited. Over time their people become disengaged. Even otherwise excellent people do not give the effort required for long-term success when they are managed.

When a leader leads they first work to create strong followers. Then they raise the bar to turn those followers into future leaders. People who are led don’t see the requests of their leaders as demands or directives. They do not comply with the requests because compliance isn’t needed. They are committed to the leader and they do whatever it takes to make certain they do not disappoint them.

Their level of work is frequently, almost always in fact, superior to managed people. They work with their leader to ensure all requirements for successful outcomes are met. People who are led instead of managed have a positive impact on the team by displaying both a more positive attitude and impressive work habits.

Leaders who lead help their people grow. Their people develop far faster than managed people. They also have a very good shot at reaching their full potential.

If you’re a person in a position of leadership who is attempting to manage your people you’re not going to like this next sentence. If you’re attempting to manage people then you’re causing an overwhelming percentage of the problems you would describe as personnel issues.

Subordinates will seldom help you grow as an organization because you’re not helping them grow as people. It may look as if leading people is harder than managing them and in fact it is…but only in the short term. In the long term the only way to eliminate personnel issues is to realize that your personnel are people. That is forgotten by far too many managers who occupy leadership positions. When you help your people grow, the rewards, both tangible and intangible far outweigh the extra effort required to truly lead.

People resist feeling managed. They respond to feeling led. Are the people you’re responsible for developing resisting you or responding to you?

The answer to that single question may hold the key to your future success and the success of your organization.

Managing vs Leading – Part Five

Solid management is essential for any organization with a desire for stability. Authentic Leadership is even more essential for any organization hoping to grow.

That’s one of the key differences between managing and leading. You can manage an organization to stay the course. You can hold it steady with basic management principles and hope your competitors are satisfied with only managing their organization too.

But if you want to grow your organization or stay ahead of your competition then you’re going to need to lead the people who make up your organization.

Managing is all about the policies and procedures of today. Leading is about the vision and strategies of tomorrow. Policies and procedures matter. They provide the stability that organizations need to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Without those policies and procedures chaos ensues and productivity stops. That’s why great management is every bit as vital as great leadership.

Leaders are responsible to shape, share and sell their vision to the people they lead. Asking someone to follow you and then not giving them any idea of where they are following you to does not work. A leader’s vision should provide a guidepost for decision making. When faced with a decision ask if whatever you’re deciding will move you in the direction of your vision. If the answer is no then your decision is made.

Leaders also determine the strategies used to achieve the goals required to make the vision a reality. The management team will implement the tactics required to achieve the goals but absent those goals there are no tactics that will result in long-term success. That’s why great leadership is every bit as vital as great management.

Now I need to ask the obvious question. Do the people you are supposed to be leading know where you’re going? Have you shared your vision with them and showed them where they fit in the vision? Do you even have a vision? Does that vision include the people who are responsible for the day-to day success of your organization?

If your answers are anything other than a very strong YES then you may be doing far more managing than leading. If that’s the case you’ve just discovered why your organization is struggling to grow.

Provide at least the same level of leadership as you do management and you’ll quickly notice the difference in your people, their productivity and the strength of your entire organization.

Managing vs Leading – Part Two

When you’re promoted to a leadership position it would be great if leadership skills came with the promotion. Unfortunately they don’t. More unfortunately, many new leaders act as if their new position, their new title, and their new office come with an entirely new set of skills that include a new way of thinking.

They couldn’t be more wrong. While you can be promoted to a position of leadership you cannot be promoted to leader. You must earn earn the right to lead. Earning that right begins when you realize that leadership has nothing to do with your title or position. Those things might make you a boss but they do not make you a leader. The good news is that once you realize that leadership isn’t about a position or title you also realize that you don’t need a title or leadership position to lead.

That’s because leadership is all about influence. Being a boss or a manager is more about authority. Influence gives you the opportunity to earn the commitment of other people. Authority only gives you the opportunity to force people to comply with your directives.

The fastest most effective way to influence other people is to demonstrate to them that you care for them. Notice that I didn’t say care about them. I said care for them. The difference is significant.

Anyone in a leadership position cares about the people they are supposed to lead. They care about their productivity. They care about their attitude. They care about their attendance. They care about the people they are supposed to lead getting the work done. They care about lots of things when it comes to the people they are supposed to lead.

But an Authentic Leaders cares for the people they lead. They care for them as individual human beings first and members of the organization second. The people they lead are more important than the task they ask them to complete. The people they lead are more important than their attendance record at work. Authentic Leaders don’t worry about the attitude of the people they lead. They create an environment of positivity that fosters a consistent positive attitude. They do all of that because they care for the people they are responsible to lead.

Authentic Leaders make a difference, a positive difference, in the lives of the people they lead and they don’t need a leadership position or a fancy title to make that happen.

Are showing your people that you care about them or are you demonstrating on a daily basis that you care for them? Do you invest the time required to know the people you lead? Do you know their goals, both personal and professional? Do you know the challenges they face in their lives. Do you know how you can help them achieve those goals and deal with those challenges?

If you can answer those questions with a yes then it’s likely that you are also demonstrating that you truly care for the people you lead. It is also almost a certainty that you’re an Authentic Leader!

Managing vs Leading – Part One

Most people who find themselves in a leadership position for the first time got there because they were good at doing whatever they were doing. They were then promoted to lead their former co-workers.

That’s great except for the fact that they are very unlikely to actually lead. They make what is the most common leadership mistake of all. They assume that their new position makes them a leader. It absolutely does not!

Your position or title gives you an opportunity to earn the chance to lead. Nothing more and nothing less.

Most people appointed to a leadership position tend to “lead” the way they were “led” by the people who they worked for. If you had a bad boss then you’ve got a head start on being a bad boss yourself. If you were managed instead of led then you’ll likely attempt to manage your people as well.

The problems associated with trying to manage another human being are too numerous to list here. But here are some of the big ones.

Poor attitude. People resist being managed, they need leadership. So managed people tend to have poor attitudes. They push back against being managed in a ton of ways, some subtle and some not so subtle. They procrastinate when given a directive. They have attendance issues. They seem to require constant attention. They question almost every decision. They resist, sometimes massively, any kind of change.

Research shows they most people are terminated due to some type of attitude issue. What most people in leadership positions fail to understand is that it was their lack of ability to truly lead that caused the poor attitude of the person they just fired.

If you’re tempted to say that you are not responsible for the attitude of your people then please immediately stop thinking of yourself as a leader. Developing an environment and culture that helps nurture a positive attitude is a prime responsibility of Authentic Leadership.

Lack of initiative. Every employer wants “self-starters” or people who can work effectively while unsupervised. But managed people seldom take the initiative….for anything but lunch and break periods. Even people with a “go-getter” mentality don’t go very far when managed instead of led. They do what it says to do in their job description (maybe) and not much more. If someone who works for you refuses to do something that isn’t explicitly spelled out in their job description that’s a sure sign they feel as if they are being managed. People who feel managed do the bare minimum required to keep their job. When you think about it that’s only fair since their manager is doing the bare minimum to help them do it.

High turnover and low morale. When you attempt to use your position or title to force the compliance of your people you cause low morale. You also cause higher turnover. Authentic Leaders earn the commitment of their people by leading them. Leaders in name only try to manage their people and the only real “tools” they have are fear and coercion. That might get them the appearance of compliance but it will not earn them commitment. High turnover and low morale will cause even high performers to disengage. No business can afford even one disengaged employee but some research shows as many as 70% of the employees at an average business are disengaged.

Average businesses and organizations attempt to manage their people rather than lead them.

Are you managing your people to an average performance or are you leading them to excellence?

The Trouble with Managing People

I write about this topic from time-to-time but it never gets old. People still make this leadership mistake with great regularity.

 

The mistake they make is trying to use their leadership position to manage people. Let me say this yet again: managing people is impossible. People refuse to be managed, they want to be led. 

 

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge the difference between managing and leading I say this: you are doomed to a life of limited leadership. Worse, you have sentenced the people you are supposed to be leading to a life of limited potential.

 

It really is that big of a deal that you understand the very real difference between managing and leading.

 

You manage things. Things like a budget, a building, and a process. You manage things that don’t think, don’t have feelings, don’t have goals and objectives, and don’t care one iota what you think of them. 

 

But people do think, they do have feelings, they (hopefully) have goals and objectives. And they care what you as their leader think of them. That’s why they must be led, not managed.

 

People who feel managed are most always under-performers. Even if they are doing well they would do better if they were led instead of managed. People who feel managed are frequently said to be “problem people” in their workplace. The truth is that they are unlikely to be the actual problem. It’s far more likely that the problem is the person who is supposed to be leading them but is managing them instead. 

 

There are people who would tell you that the difference between managing and leading is pure semantics. But they would be mistaken. The differences are substantial and one of the biggest ones is mindset. Managers can afford to be dispassionate, in fact it’s a strength for managers. Leaders must be passionate. They have to truly care about the people they lead. They have to be as motivated to help their people succeed as they are to succeed themselves. 

 

A management mindset sees people as an asset or as capital to be used. Managers think in terms of “spending time on” their people when their people need help. A leadership mindset sees people as a human being to be nurtured and developed. Leaders think of “investing time with” their people when their people need help. 

 

The difference in outcomes produced by those two mindsets is like night and day. 

 

I know you’re not going to like this but if you have “problem people” in your organization then you need to make certain that you are not the root of the problem. If you’re trying to manage your people then the “problem” with your people is most likely you.


Leaders lead people and managers manage stuff. The best leaders know how…and when, to manage and the best managers know how…and when, to lead. There’s no crime in not being able to do both, you just have to acknowledge it and not try to manage people who need to be led.