Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Management and Leadership

If you read management literature, you will see discussion of the difference between "management" and "leadership". Generally the implication is that management is not enough and that organizations need leadership, but there's more to it than that as I am seeing with an organization I work with.

Management is the ability to get all the troops marching in the same direction: assigning tasks, tracking data, making sure that things get done. Operational tactics, in other words.

Leadership is more strategic, creating a vision that everyone can share. Inspiring everyone that what they are doing is meaningful and that their part of the project is important.

Management is organizing the troops into squads, telling each one where to start up the hill, tracking results and making adjustments. Leadership is convincing the troops that taking this hill is critical to victory and that their efforts and courage today will bring an end to the war.

Both are necessary. With only management, you have a force which gets halfway up the hill then hits problems and says "why are we here," a force that can't keep going when the going gets tough. With only leadership, the people are inspired, motivated, unstoppable, but disorganized and running in different directions.

Every leader has a combination of these two traits in differing amounts. The best managers, are rarely great inspiring leaders. The most charismatic of leaders rarely can provide the organization needed. That is why leadership teams are important. Many companies have a Chief Executive Officer who provides the big picture vision and a Chief Operations Officer who manages the nitty gritty. The CEO can create a grand plan which the COO can put nuts and bolts on. Thus, the people in the company both know what their day to day job is and feel that they are part of something big and important.

As often happens, people often think that their own traits are the most important. Highly organized people might think the organization's problem is a lack of organization. Visionaries might see a lack of vision. The key is to realize that the combination of all these factors create success, then to seek out the diverse skills and abilities to achieve it.