On LinkedIn, there is a great ongoing dialog about the difference between the terms “leader” and “manager.” It’s generated such strong reaction that there have been almost 1000 posts made to the initial question. Personally, I think this question begs a more interesting question around how we invest (as compared to spend) our time. As these terms are really more about what we do than who we are, consciously deciding how we want to do each as is a great way to self-evaluate our effectiveness. Irrespective of title, we are all called to both lead and manage well.
In my business, I witness leaders struggling to maintain balance between leading and managing in a fast paced world where time is short and daily fires are plenty.
When we lead, we motivate, inspire, and optimize people by creating and over communicating the target state, connecting people with the WHY, helping people discover and apply their full potential, and creating hunger for continuous improvement and personal growth. When we lead, we create purpose and increase the positive energy of a team and its individuals. We’ve led well when we sustain an environment where every person is intimately connected with and engaged in the overall vision and has total clarity on their role in achieving it.
When we manage, we focus on operational performance, as indicated and measured by process excellence. We set measurable goals with deadlines, and implement the processes and tools needed to hit the goals. We design, implement, and manage the execution of the target state through discipline, results transparency, and course corrections.
Leading without managing is like a fireworks show… Exciting and awe inspiring but quickly evaporating into the previous state of darkness. There is no motion forward. No analogy comes to mind for managing without leading, but results will decline or remain stagnant. The people involved will become bored, disconnected, and see themselves as cogs in a wheel versus knowledge workers who are involved in creating something markedly better and very cool!
We all, regardless of title, lead and manage. The key is to know how to marry the two in the achievement of the target state while providing a stimulating environment people WANT to engage in.