Leadership and management smarts

Published On: July 1, 2023Categories: Business, Management

Leadership and management are closely related; however, despite often being spoken of in the same breath, they are certainly not synonymous. If we use those terms interchangeably, we tend to behave as if these roles are interchangeable and equivalent. Doing so means we miss critical components of excellence within our organizations.

Destination vs. the path

Leadership is the ability to inspire and provide a vision so that individuals or groups can achieve a common goal. Management is more granular, involving the planning, coordination and guidance of team members, tasks and tools needed to accomplish that goal. Leadership is about envisioning and communicating a future state and inspiring others to work toward it. Management is about organizing and utilizing resources in an efficient and effective manner in the service of that future state. Said more simply, leaders provide the destination and managers chart the path.

In every organization, no matter how big or small, both functions are critical to success. Companies flourish when leadership teams embrace both roles, and teams thrive when their managers know how to manage and lead.  

Leaders inspire a larger vision

Since leaders often think strategically, they are constantly looking ahead. They want to inspire others to think beyond the present and to work toward a greater outcome. Great leaders catalyze the group toward a goal and, to ensure success in that endeavor, foster and promote positivity and productivity. They are known for empowering individuals to make decisions and take ownership of their work. They are committed to the outcome and want each team member to contribute to that goal. Autonomy and authority are provided as tools along the journey; however, providing the road map to the destination is a function of management, not leadership.  

Managers craft the route

It is the role of managers to craft the pathway to the intended destination. And more than that, they need to ensure that their team members are properly equipped, empowered and educated so they have the resources and the know-how to stay on track. Not getting lost along the way is, of course, a critical part of accomplishing goals, and maintaining the required pace is what preserves the timelines of a particular business.  

Guide rather than control 

Planning, organizing, directing and guiding the activities of team members are all key components of effective management. However, mistaking control for guidance is often what trips up many managers. Whether stemming from their own insecurities, a lack of training or plain shortsightedness, many managers default to micromanagement, which disempowers their direct reports. 

A more effective way to manage outcomes is to lean into some of the inspirational and aspirational components of leadership. Before deluging team members with instructions about the processes and procedures needed to accomplish a particular task, managers should first provide them with a clear context for their work and help them see their place within the larger organization so that they can understand the meaning of their contributions. This is one of the not-so-secret secrets of management success.

A demanding skill set

The way in which managers wield their positional authority will either help build up the company culture or steadily erode it. Managers execute an organization’s larger strategy by way of its people. This is a big job, and it requires expertise in communication, delegation and accountability—and a healthy dose of good leadership too. 

As much as managers need to encourage and support their teams, they also have to deal with a team’s faults, failures and foibles. When corrective actions need to be taken with processes or people, management’s approach to crafting and executing those changes and handling those conversations will either lead to a unified, committed and empowered team or one that is fractured, disengaged and disgruntled.

“The Money Test”

Too often, managers get overwhelmed by the daily grind of their work. They are so far in the weeds that they are neglecting what would be their most valuable contribution to both their team and the organization as a whole.

I have developed an approach I call “The Money Test” that assigns a monetary value to the various activities someone could spend their time on within the broad scope of their role. I organize these activities into value quadrants with four different levels of value contribution to the organization based on the role being evaluated. For a manager, these quadrants include $10-an-hour tasks, $100-an-hour tasks, $1,000-an-hour tasks and $10,000-dollar-an-hour tasks. 

When managers are hyperfocused on the small things that others could easily handle, they are spending their time at the $10-an-hour level. On the other hand, if they are focusing on activities that directly or indirectly drive revenue, create efficiency or produce savings of time or money for the organization, they are living in the $10,000-dollar-an-hour value quadrant.

Understand your value

Managers who become overly concerned with the controlling aspect of their work, who micromanage their teams or take on responsibility for the daily minutia, rob themselves of their efficacy, which is a huge opportunity cost for the organization. Managers who pay attention to the higher-level needs of their team and the company as a whole are optimizing their contributions. 

For example, managers who answer product-level questions for their team members and function as “know-everythings” rather than teaching their team members how to find the answers they need by building their own knowledge bases are $10-an-hour managers rather than $10,000-an-hour managers. It’s that old proverb about teaching your team how to fish instead of handing them fish all day long.

Managers who invest in the development of their teams create exponential value because they gain time-freedom to reinvest into higher-level activities that directly and indirectly make or save the company money, time or both.  

Both roles are necessary for success

It is essential that leaders who are setting the organization’s direction toward an inspiring goal also prioritize bringing in managers who can support that vision. Their management team needs to not only understand what it needs to accomplish but have the skills to translate destinations into routes as well as the leadership acumen to motivate and encourage their team members toward that objective. 

Both leadership and management are essential for the success of an organization. The effective combination of these roles drives results and success throughout an organization and creates a more positive and empowered company culture. 

However, it’s important to note that good leadership does not automatically mean good management and vice versa. A leader may have the ability to inspire and guide a team but may lack the necessary management skills to effectively coordinate the team and craft the pathway. Likewise, a manager may be skilled at coordinating processes but lack the ability to inspire and motivate team members. 

Take a hard look at your organization. Evaluate your leadership and management teams, and if there are gaps you need to close through ongoing education and management or leadership training, be sure to get those trainings scheduled. Both leadership and management skills can be learned and developed, and both are essential for the success of any business.  

Madeleine MacRae is a business and leadership coach who focuses on bringing her clients thought-provoking, practical, usable content that accelerates their implementation and secures their long- and short-term results. She loves the grit and determination of small- to mid-sized business owners and has dedicated her career to helping them and their teams. Reach her at homeprotoolbox.com. 

SIDEBAR: Leaders vs. Managers

Here are the primary qualities of leaders and managers according to Julia Martins, author of the article “Leadership vs. Management: Are They Different?” An effective organization requires both roles. 

Leaders provide:

• Motivation

• Creativity

• Mentoring

• Problem-solving

• Risk-taking

Managers provide:

• Feedback

• Professional development

• Delegation

• Organization and planning

• Problem-solving

• Team-building

Read more at asana.com/resources/leadership-vs-management.