Is there a difference between Management and Leadership? And if there is a difference does it matter? It’s interesting to observe how many more people have the word manager in their title rather than leader, so maybe it does matter. If we look at some of the definitions we can see a clear difference. Some people define leadership as being about setting the objectives; communicating the vision; defining the culture in which people operate. Management some say is about day to day actions; making sure people are doing what they should be doing; ensuring processes are working; sorting problems with people or processes; fire fighting; organising resources.
In these definitions we can see a significant difference. Where management conserns itself with the day to day, leadership is more about the long term issues such as setting the culture or atmosphere in which the work is done. So a management task maybe to ensure the team is working according to the agreed procedures, whereas leadership is about creating the right culture in which poeple can be at their most productive.
One way of looking at the difference is to look at a challenge. Let’s say one of the team keeps missing a deadline for a report which they need to submit at the same time, every week. Is this a management or leadership challenge? You might say it is a management challenge because it is concerning the work of the day to day and it’s not about the vision thing. The team member needs to be reminded of the importance of the deadline and why it is there; perhaps asked if they need help in completing the report on time; or maybe asked why they are not finishing on time.
However there is a stronger argument that this is a leadership issue because the team member believes they can submit the report late without consequence, or at least appears to think that the report being late does not matter. This team member is working in a culture which may not only allow lateness but encourgaes it! The more the manager does not pick up on this behaviour the more it is encouraged. If, through leadership, the culture had been defined properly the employee would not feel it appropriate to submit late reports and certainly would not do so without alerting their line manager to the impending lateness.
So another way of looking at the situation is that management is about fixing day to day issues, whereas leadership is about understanding how to encourage people to do the right thing in the first place. When a challenge occurs the manager in us says ‘how do we fix this?’ but we should perhaps listen to the leader in us saying ‘why has this happened?’
Take another example. You overhear a Supervisor talking to one of their team ‘you have got to complete this form correctly, if you don’t we will get the finance team on our backs and you know what a nightmare that can be.’ Management or leadership? True the form filling is a day to day task, but what does this little sentence tell us about the culture being established in this part of the organisation? One, the Supervisor is using a mild form of fear to motivate; Two the finance team is being labelled as troublesome; Three there is no logic used in motivating the required behaviour, it is all emotion; Four, the culture in this situation looks conflict based.
There is a lot of work to do here and it is not on completing the form. Time needs to be invested with the supervisor to help them change their view of the required culture in the organisation; develop respect for the finance team and to reconsider how they motivate their people.
And how to do this? That’s another blog! 8)