On Management & Leadership

November 8, 2018

Leadership and management overlap. They aren't mutually exclusive. But for most of us, the formal structures (hierarchies) of our organizations exhibit various levels of each on a sort of institutional Venn diagram. Our various leaders, both formal and informal, lie somewhere along a continuum of overlap. As such, there are some we'd more readily call leaders; others we might think of principally as managers. A select, impressive few have mastered the tasks essential to both—their overlap on that diagram is nearly complete. 

 

Understanding where our colleagues, bosses, and supervisors fit on that overlap spectrum is worthy of some reflection. Even more important, probably, is some consideration of where we ourselves fall, based on what we do and how we do it every day. Would we be considered effective leaders, effective managers, or both? It's wrong to assume we are one and not the other based simply on our formal role in an organization. 

 

I think one can be an effective manager without too much leadership skill. On the other hand, though, I think it's harder to be an inspiring leader—at least sustainably—without good management skills. Inspiring, influential people without too much management savvy can animate us, but I wouldn't lean on their uplifting spirits alone to keep the lights on and the ledger in the black. 

 

It's worth thinking, too, about what happens when leadership dynamics change—especially when someone in a different spot along that leadership/management continuum moves into a formal position and affects the status quo. 

 

Consider the arrival of a visionary leader in an organization that hasn't had much inspiring direction. If people are used to being managed, but not led, they may appreciate the leadership they've been craving. Or they might resent the call it will issue them to grow, change, and evolve in their work. Or, who knows—it could be a combination of both appreciation and resentment. 

 

But then consider the opposite: the introduction of a more managerial type in an already highly-inspired (and therefore likely closely-knit) situation. If people are used to inspiring leadership but haven't had much management, they may have a different combination of appreciation and resentment. They may well appreciate the resources,  order, clarity, and specific direction management provides. But they may just as likely resent the imposition of limitations that come as part of that package. 

 

All of this is worth thinking about. As part of that consideration, it might be good to inventory our own skills and behaviors in this context. How much of what we do comprises genuine leadership? How much of it is essentially just management? One way to tell the difference in 2018: If there's an app for it, it's probably a management task—not a leadership task.

 

Because at least in my experience, genuine leaders do well what apps can't do at all.

 

 

 

 

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