Many people in business use the words “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. While both are key to the success of an organization, each contributes in a different way.
As a manager, you are responsible for making sure your team knows what it is trying to accomplish and sometimes providing guidance on how to accomplish it. As a leader, you are responsible for communicating why the mission is critical to success and inspiring your team to make it happen.
Leadership vs. Management
Still not convinced there’s a difference between leadership and management? Consider the following three scenarios. In each one, the manager and the leader both do their jobs well and act professionally. However, the leader goes a step further and inspires others to achieve even more.
Scenario #1: A new web app needs to be built.
A manager makes sure that the web application is delivered on time and on budget. The manager sticks to the scope of the project and holds people on her team accountable because she is ultimately responsible for the outcome. As a result, the manager ensures her team and her client (an internal or external stakeholder) are pleased with the work.
A manager does exactly what’s expected.
Before the project starts, the leader explains the goals and objectives of the project and why it is critical to the client’s success — and the importance to her team. She encourages the team to ask questions and then has the team participate in the high-level strategy and own the detailed planning. Once the project is complete, she holds a launch event where she tells the story of how they got there and who helped contribute to the new vision. She acknowledges everyone in the organization and their role in the project.
A leader goes above and beyond.
Scenario #2: A new business opportunity presents itself.
The manager of a sales team identifies projects he knows can be performed effectively and efficiently with his current team. When the manager comes across a potentially lucrative opportunity that is not a core service of the company, the manager quickly concludes that he should not pursue it. He knows it would require a significant investment of time and resources by the current staff to explore the work, and it might distract the team from their current plans. The manager independently decides not to pursue this new endeavor and stays focused on projects that fit the company’s current business strategy.
A manager stays the course.
When he identifies an opportunity that is not a core service but has a high potential for long-term profitability, he convenes a small group of leaders and outlines what’s possible. He asks how they might explore this with the current team — perhaps inspiring volunteers to put in some extra time on the side. The leader discusses if now is the right time to make a strategic new hire that could allow the company to expand its portfolio of services and win the new opportunity. Whether or not the company ultimately decides to pursue the new opportunity is irrelevant — the leader considers the risk vs. reward of doing something different and brings optimism to what’s possible.
A leader is comfortable with calculated risk.
Scenario #3: An individual contributor is promoted to manager.
The new manager is now responsible for holding her former peers accountable. Over the course of the next few months, one of the manager’s direct reports (a former peer) is consistently underperforming. The direct report misses deadlines and delivers work that is not up to the standards of the company. After each instance, the manager pulls her direct report aside and offers guidance on how to improve. The direct report seems earnest in her commitment to the company, but she shows no signs of improvement. The manager is dedicated and relentless in her attempts to salvage her direct report’s career at the company.
A manager focuses on individuals.
The leader tells her direct report that it’s time to move on from this company. The leader is transparent that it’s not a personal issue, it’s a business one. The leader reviews documentation of the poor performance as well as the coaching opportunities that the direct report was given. Difficult as it is, the leader knows the good of her entire team and company must come before an individual who is unable to perform. The leader works to respectfully transition her direct report out of the company, knowing that keeping her team surrounded by high achievers is the key to keeping them inspired.
A leader puts the team performance above all else.
Leadership is not a title. It’s a mindset.
Great leaders believe in doing what’s expected of them, staying on strategy and investing in their people. But what sets leaders apart is their inherent drive to inspire.
You’re a leader if you consistently go above and beyond expectations, encourage healthy feedback and questions from everyone in the company and create the conditions for a vibrant team culture.
Who are the leaders you’ve worked with and admire? What sets their approach apart? What can you adopt from their style? Please leave your comments below. (p.s. I loved watching Pat coach the Lady Vols, even as a UCONN fan)
I originally published this post on LinkedIn on April 1, 2019.