Management versus leadership has been a long time battle between efficiency/status quo and growth/forward motion. There are many blogs and gurus out there that dive deep into the battle and define the differences to each, but I think there are two key differences that inherently separate the leaders from the managers.
To explain more about what I mean above, let me say that Management is simply about maintaining the status quo. If a process works, don’t change it. Instead, you strive to keep it working like an oiled machine and that means managing the process to limit as much change as you can. The thing is, change is the nemesis of management. Seeing as change is inevitable, management becomes this reactive decision to revert any change back to the state of the oiled machine.
An employee leaves; find a replacement. A machine breaks down; fix it as soon as possible. If someone disrupts the status quo by doing something different, you have to get rid of them. You don’t want different; you want normal. You want consistent production and you’ve found a proven process. The problem with this is that a proven process has been proven for that point in time, but over time, change will be inevitable, and that proven process can very well turn into a proven disaster. This kind of management mindset simply halts any and all growth, making the process a ticking time bomb for failure.
Now management is also inevitable. We have to manage processes and businesses for them to maintain a state that will launch them into further success, but my point is that it is things that need to be managed; not people.
Things should be managed…People should be led.
There are many aspects to leadership, but I believe that the two staples of leadership are Culture and Empowerment:
Culture is a large part of job satisfaction and employee retention. Imagine you’re in a workplace where you are yelled at all day for everything you’re doing wrong and never praised for the things you do right. Imagine you’re working day to day in fear that you may lose your job, watching the seconds hand on the clock tick by waiting to clock out and go home, and you’re forced to put your hand up in the air so your manager can come by and give you permission to use the restroom.
Now imagine you’re praised for the things you do well and given constructive criticism on what you can do better. You’re not yelled at, but instead you brainstorm together about how we all could improve the process. You work day to day towards a long-term goal you resonate with and you know as long as you resonate with that goal, there’s a spot for you in the organization. You don’t need to clock in or clock out because you’re motivated to be there every day. You get there early and leave late because you want to; not because you have to. And you don’t need permission to use the bathroom, leave to pick up your kids, or take a Friday off while family is in town because you’re trusted to get your job done and you will work on a Sunday evening if you have to because you realize trust is a two way street.
That’s the difference culture can make in an environment. Although possible, it’s extremely difficult for leadership to persevere through a managing culture. Future leaders become stifled, agitated, are not fulfilled, and leave. The work environment becomes stagnate and stale, employee retention becomes a struggle, and no one leaves work with a smile. The root of most organizational issues begin in culture (which is strongly related to communication and vice versa). Create a leadership friendly culture and your organization will not only maintain it’s successful status quo, but also jump on any growth opportunities that become available.
You have to empower your employees or your partners to be leaders themselves. You have to trust that they are aligned with your mission (which starts with a culture), because if they are aligned with your mission, they will make the moves to keep you going in the right direction. They may not do everything exactly as you would have done, but there are a million ways to get from one place to another. When you empower your employees, you give them a sense of ownership. This isn’t simply your project that they are working on…Now it becomes their project as well. Not everyone likes to be a leader or lead others, but everyone likes to be empowered to bring creative ideas to the table. This empowerment, in turn, will likely inspire the future leaders of your organization to take a leadership role by instinct; by necessity. They will catapult themselves into it because that’s their calling and that’s what’s necessary for the group to attain it’s goals.
Maybe I will get into management versus leadership more in depth in future posts, but to keep it simple, we have to start by implementing these two things before we can even begin to think about shifting from a management focused organization to a leadership focused organization. Create a culture that empowers your employees to be leaders because they will start to empower their subordinates to be leaders in their own way. An organization of leaders will always accomplish more than an organization of employees.
I encourage anyone interested in learning more about culture to read Tribes by Seth Godin. It’s a very simple and easy read, but it packs in a lot of great information about culture and the implications of managing versus leading.
If nothing else, just remember: