It isn’t that management is “bad” while leadership is “good.” The two involve different skill sets, and both are essential for success. Generally speaking, however, leadership transcends management, meaning that a manager with real leadership skills is generally an effective manager, but a leader with management skills may or may not be a good leader.
Management is a matter of controlling people or processes to accomplish a goal, whereas leadership is about influencing, motivating, and enabling people in such a way that organizational success is greater. A great leader knows how to look inward, doesn’t assume he or she has all the answers, and is willing to work shoulder-to-shoulder with others to achieve important goals.
Power and Influence: The Difference Is Important
Both power and influence can change behavior, and get results, but power is coercive, while influence is not. Both have their place where they are legitimately needed, and there’s no clear line of demarcation between the two. Sometimes power works where influence does not, and vice versa, but both need each other. Influence and inspiration separate the leaders from the managers.
Power remains with the person wielding it, and may be exercised against the will of others. When power isn’t legitimate, it can bring resentment and even counter actions. Influence, on the other hand, is relational. Since influence is voluntarily accepted, it is inherently legitimate and not autocratic. Therefore, those who are operating under influence accept compliance even though they may have alternatives, while those operating under power accept compliance because they have no choice. Additionally, power is finite, regardless of effectiveness, while influence is fluid, interpersonal, and indefinite.
Process and Inspiration
Management involves the ability to execute a vision in a systematic way. If you’re ever in a medical emergency, you want to be helped by a manager, someone who will give specific directions: “You, dial 911. You, can I borrow your jacket? He may be going into shock. I need you to pull the car off the road.” Consensus doesn’t really have a place in some situations, and in these situations, a skilled manager is exactly who you need.
When it comes to organizational excellence, however, leadership is how you rally your team around a common vision. People don’t have to be made to follow true leaders, and true leaders are willing to take calculated risks and take responsibility when they make mistakes. Sometimes, particularly with startups and small businesses, leaders must use management skills, but determining which processes need management and assigning a competent manager to take care of those processes is generally better.
Leaders and Management Skills; Managers and Leadership Skills
The best leaders possess some management skills that can be put into practice when necessary. By the same token, excellent managers should possess some leadership skills to make management more effective. The end results of outstanding leadership include good team morale, high-quality work, and ultimately higher revenues. The end results of outstanding management include higher efficiency, excellent coordination of processes and again, higher revenues.
Managers can develop leadership skills by making the effort to demonstrate their values in day-to-day work, asking people for feedback, and making it clear that they believe in the competence of team members. Leaders who need to improve their management skills have several options, perhaps the best being the assistance of a leadership coach. Coaching is about identifying and developing specific skills, and many management skills can be successfully developed using this paradigm.
There’s a certain aspect of yin and yang to leadership and management, and organizations benefit when both are strong and competent. The yin-yang relationship can be imagined as the sun moving across the sky, playing over a mountain and a valley. What was obscured eventually becomes revealed, and what was revealed becomes hidden in shadow. But while both leadership and management are necessary, they shouldn’t be completely separate and discrete entities. The best leaders have management skills they can employ when the situation calls for it, while the best managers also have leadership skills.
If you’re interested in the topics of leadership and management, particularly as they relate to corporate culture, I invite you to check out my books. As an experienced leadership coach, I have seen the best of both and I’d be honored to be a part of taking your organization from good to great.