To Manage or To Lead – That is the Question
In a recent team-building exercise during a safety workshop run at an energy company client, one group of participants launched a discussion about “manager vs. leader.” A lively discussion followed, and the conclusion came down to this:
- Managers do not always lead well.
- Leaders must still “manage.”
- Great leaders manage to do both well.
Leadership is not tied to a person’s role within the company. Each person has to manage their assigned role, which comes with projects, processes, administrative tasks and, for managers, a team of people. Leadership, though, is endemic and intrinsic to all roles within the company:
You lead yourself first. How do you work each day? Are you internally motivated to perform well? Have you tied your tasks to your internal motivators? Do you see how your work supports the strategic mission? What behaviors do you exhibit to others? What sort of conversations do you run with others? Are they forward-thinking and action-oriented? Do others consider you a valuable addition to their teams? Are you sought out as a collaborator?
At some point, you lead others. Do you lead others as you prefer to be led, with respect? Do you learn the perferred communications styles of your subordinates and adapt your style to theirs? Do you emphasize mutual support and share credit liberally? Are you sought out as a collaborator by other groups on key projects? Do you “go to bat” for your team when conflicts arise? Do you get them the resources they need to succeed?
A recent survey by SABA found that two thirds of employees consider themselves “leaders” within their organizations, as they consider that their performance is making a difference in the company’s success. Here is the stat, from this SABA release:
- 68% of full-time and part-time employees feel they are already leaders based on participation in the business (73% men, 60% women) , with managers more likely being in agreement with this statement than entry level or individual contributors by 30% (85% v 55%, respectively).
These respondents seem still to be conjoining managing with leading, and may be giving themselves too much credit! It is the organization’s job to train these employees distinction between managing and leading, and the value of each activity. Then focus on the responsibilities of leadership:
- Leaders focus on the people management job first, and do not allow administrative and other tasks to crowd out the “people stuff” from calendar and priority list.
- Leaders figure out how to leverage delegation and trust to clear their docket for the people stuff.
- They oversee the sharing of tasks among team members and manage those loads equitably
- They match tasks and project leadership roles to those best ready to work on them productively
- Conversely, they find ways to use some task assignments as development opportunities for new or junior team members
- They placing groups in charge of projects or processes, and escalate decision-making authority as trust is built
- They embed performance review as a constant part of the week (or month at most), used as a constant source of two-way feedback and improvement.
This short 500-word essay serves as a mere reminder of the power of true leadership to get the best work willingly from the people working for you. If you have additions, challenges, revisions to any of these points, please share them! Dialogue drives continuous improvement!