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Management and leadership or management versus leadership?  In many instances, organizations use these words interchangeably but they mean very different things.

Google says…

If you do a quick Google search on Management versus Leadership, you will find articles talking at great length about the differences.  One theme you may soon notice is people see leadership as something to aspire to and management as an outdated concept.

Some examples of phrases I read in my quick search:

“Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.”[1]

Management: Mechanical (people are parts of machine; human capital) versus Leaders (display emotional maturity (EI), relationships built through trust and continuous learning).

A Different Perspective

I offer a different perspective. In my view, a leader needs both leadership and management to be effective.  A leader who focuses only on tasks and transactions will ultimately fail, as will a leader who only focuses on being a visionary.  An effective leader doesn’t move totally away from transactional tasks such as performance reviews, succession planning, or resource planning as these are all critical parts of the job.

Can’t I Just Provide the Fish?

Is there an alternate framework that would provide a new lens from which to view this role?  Perhaps a leader who can think strategically and through a mission-focused lens can make these tasks more than transactional.  For example, managers use performance reviews as a way to look at work that was done in the past and to plan for the future. A manager who takes a strategic view of performance reviews also focuses on how these tasks support the goals and ultimately the mission or vision of the organization.

Another useful lens addresses the emotional and energetic components of leadership. Viewing direct reports as thought partners rather than interchangeable units or parts of a machine helps leaders to create collaborative relationships.  A manager or leader who takes a “coach approach” of asking questions instead of making statements develops trust between herself and those she leads.

A leader acting as a coach trusts that the person doing the work will have a stronger solution, and one that he or she is more committed to rather than a solution the leader provides.  In that way, the leader is coaching rather than mentoring.  Coaching, to use a cliché, is about teaching an employee to fish rather than providing the fish.

The avoidance of giving advice can be especially challenging because so many leaders are promoted through the ranks. They have actually done some of the work that their direct reports are doing. A leader is usually promoted for doing the work well, so it follows that he or she feels that there is a basis for just telling the direct report how to do it.

I have often heard my clients say, “It’s just faster to do it myself!”  Many times, that is undoubtedly true…and leads to leaders who are transactional as well as eventually, burned out.  If a manager is doing the work that his direct reports are tasked with doing, where is the brain space and time to create a vision of the future?

If you’re struggling with these issues, a leadership coach can serve as your thought partner and help you strategize.  Call me for a complimentary strategy session to see if we’re a good fit and if coaching is a good fit for you.


[1] Three Differences Between Managers and Leaders, Nayer, V. HBR 2013