Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leadership vs. Management

To run a successful business or other organization, you need effective leaders and efficient managers. But you need to know which is which.

Management is defined as the organization, coordination and allocation of activities and resources in order to achieve defined goals, missions and objectives.

Leadership is defined as the art and science of influencing others to accomplish a task, mission, objective or goal by providing purpose, direction, inspiration and motivation.

Though similar, the two are different. For one thing, a manager is a follower that is accountable to a leader, necessarily. A good leader should be a good manager. A good manager is not necessarily a leader.

A good leader needs to have some level of empathy and sympathy for his followers. That requires respect. That respect is usually a result of the leader "having been there". A manager does not. A manager just needs a leader to give him or her a list of objectives and resources available/required. The manager then allocates what is needed where so the mission can be accomplished.

I have a little bit of experience in both. 24 or so years in the military breeds that into a Soldier. Without these skills, a Solider won't be successful, won't (or shouldn't) be promoted, and won't make it to retirement.

A Soldier has to manage his time. He's given "hard times" of where to be and when to do what. It is up to him to plan well enough to get there. He has to organize and maintain his equipment well enough and efficiently enough to be on-time with what he needs to do the job. He has to manage his appearance. The list goes on.

As a Soldier gains rank, he is expected to manage more. He is expected to manage himself as well as other Soldiers. He is entrusted with more equipment and resources to manage as well. A Soldier is also expected to move from manager to leader. As he is expected to help get his teammates trained, ready, and on-time he is expected to do so by being an example of what "right looks like". Being that example is leadership.

By being that example, he motivates others to do the right thing. He gets promoted and awards and accolades. Those serve to add some level of purpose. In addition, he knows more of "why" things are done a certain way. He can suggest better ways, as well. He can explain "the system" in terms not only of "how" but "why". He gives direction, as well. "Here, buddy, try it this way. See how that works? Now you don't look like somebody pulled you out of the bottom of a duffel bag."

Once the Soldier hits the Non-Commissioned Officer ranks, he usually has a bit of a foundation in being a good leader. That's when he is taught more advanced management tools and skills. He learns how to manage people (duty rosters, etc.). He learns how to manage equipment (the supply and accountability systems). He also learns how to manage not only his time but that of those entrusted to his care.

Commissioned Officers get more management (and some academic leadership) schooling. One of their first lessons, though, is to count on the NCOs to "get it done". They also have their rank structure and system of on-the-job training that develops and hones those management and leadership skills. But they tend to count on the NCOs to help them make that empathy and sympathy bridge to be effective.

Now that I have current and former military individuals nodding in ascent and civilians getting droopy-eyed, I'll redirect this in a non-military direction. 


Certain people may have a knack for managing resources. Those resources could be keeping track of paperwork. They could be keeping track of funds (we call that "accounting"). They may be good at managing personnel files as well as general needs (and contractual requirements) and benefits of human capital (employees). They may be good at scheduling people to cover peak hours efficiently, but save payroll and get the job(s) done efficiently with an effective minimum staffing during non-peak hours. They may be good at allocating other resources like office supplies, shipping and receiving, and other forms of resource management.

That's nice. But it doesn't, necessarily, make you a leader, kid. You handle those things for the leaders.

Leaders listen to advice. They listen to the experts. They have the goal in mind, and state it clearly. They have a clear vision on how to get there.They make decisions. They give direction. They get others excited to get the job done. Managers just allocate the resources in accordance with the leadership. Leaders also assume responsibility. In contrast, they don't take credit for the accomplishments. They pass those kudos to those who worked for them.

Leaders also set that example. They don't worry about "job security" or justifying their position. It should be rather obvious. The other thing they do is impart their wisdom, the secrets of their successes, to those willing to learn. A leader's ultimate goal should be to teach those "under" him or her to be able to replace him/her. Basically, they should seek to work themselves out of a job.

That wouldn't worry a leader, though. There will always be a need for a good leader. They will be promoted up or moved someplace that needs them.

There are many books written on what a leader is or should do. There are also things a leader should not do.

A leader needs to be an effective manager, though not necessarily an expert. The leader needs to understand enough of the management of a functional area to be able to understand the advice of the management staff responsible for the area. But a leader needs to lead and manage the managers.

A leader needs to admit fallibility.  By being conscious of faults and mistakes, a leader will use them to seek improvement. That requires feedback and being thick-skinned enough to receive it.

A leader needs to be a mentor, not a boss. Sure, sometimes the "because I said so" is the only answer that will get through. Sometimes, it is all there is time for. However, explanations do need to come. Anybody can be given some level of authority or responsibility and be a "boss". It doesn't require much to yell "do what I say or else...". In the military, rank is backed by laws and regulations. That is not necessarily the case in the civilian workplace. Managers tend to be bossy because they are not capable of leading. They also tend to be critics instead of mentors.

Criticism is "such and such policy says it must be this way and you are wrong because I know better and I'm telling...". Criticism is demoralizing. Providing positive feedback is mentoring. A mentor will say "you are doing this and this right. You seem to be having problems here. Let's see if I can help you to fix that." The mentor then takes joy when the coworker succeeds and improves. They do so not because "I fixed him". They do so because they inspired the coworker to grow.

A leader will offer advice and a helping hand. Managers will offer "punishment".

Leaders don't exhibit favoritism. Managers play favorites. It is human nature to have favorites and to prioritize based upon them. A manager is concerned more with efficiency and how things make them look. So, they play favorites in order to place their favorite resources where it will make them look best. Leaders look to improve that "weakest link" if possible. But they do not demonstrate favoritism because it harms morale. It is demotivating. It clouds purpose, perverting it to "make them look bad so I look better". It obfuscates the direction and guidance. Employees no longer see the intended goals. Instead, they see a paycheck, a benefit, a need to survive (secure their job), or a need to seek employment elsewhere.


Quality Control is a function of both leadership and management. This is a tool to provide managers data for allocation of resources in order to be more efficient. To leaders, however, it's a tool for growth and improvement. It identifies areas that need their delegated parts of the mission better clarified. Sometimes they indicate a dud resource (or a bad employee). Sometimes, that resource needs maintenance. In terms of humans, that may mean time off, a promotion, a raise, better training, or firing. The firing, however, needs to be a function of the leader, not of a manager.

Managers ask "why", while leaders ask "why not?". Managers quote policy. Leaders explain why the policies are in place. If a policy is hampering efficiency, productivity, or prosperity, a leader questions it and reviews it for revision. Most policies are meant to be temporary. They tend to be the basis of a manager's authority. So they tend to ask for more of them than less, unless it's their work that is impeded or hampered.

Leaders are executives. Managers are bureaucrats. Leaders care about job performance and completion. Managers worry about justifying a job and a paycheck. Leaders see the big picture. Managers see what is on their desk (and worry about what it on other people's desks).

Leaders know when and where to empower their subordinates, granting authority when needed, and limiting it. They see their authority and responsibility as a means to generate it in others. But they know to reserve the ultimate responsibility, accountability, and decisions (usually through a form of "veto"). Managers hold onto delegated power. It's the resource they don't dole out. Instead, they attempt to allocate out the responsibility and blame. A leader will keep that blame to himself.

You don't have to be the head of a company, division, section, shift, or team to be a leader. You just have to have the mindset and drive to be the example you think is needed. You need to accept your current place, but seek the responsibility and accountability of that next higher station. You have to want to learn. You have to be willing to follow your leaders (while trying to not step on the toes of the managers too much). You have to be willing to pass along what you learned, and do so without being condescending. You have to ask for critique (not criticism) and feedback. You have to be willing to give such in your areas of knowledge (not in areas where you have limited experience). Be the leader you need.

Anybody can be a manager or "boss". They are a nickle a dozen. Good leaders, however, regardless of echelon or level, are priceless.