Management and leadership are often confused but are fundamentally different
Management and leadership are often confused but are fundamentally different. They call for diverse skill sets, require contrasting thinking styles and involve different approaches to interpersonal relations. Above all they demand distinctly different orientations. Management is about objectivity and rational thinking; leadership depends on passion and inspiration. Both management and leadership are critical to success in our increasingly complex and turbulent social, political and economic environments.
Leadership is about direction and movement. It includes creating a vision for the future and engaging others in moving toward the vision. Management involves planning, controlling, day-to-day problem solving and making sure that resources are used optimally. Often, management also includes responsibility for a budget and ensuring compliance with policies and procedures. Leadership involves risk taking; management includes controlling risk. Management focuses primarily on systems and processes; leadership is much more about people.
In thinking about your current or previous work roles, do you think of yourself as a leader or a manager or a mix of both? How do you believe you are perceived by peers? By the people who report to you? Or by the people who might be about to report to you? How do you want to be perceived?
Striking the right balance
Some organisational roles require a strong management focus and offer less scope for leadership. For example, when a manager’s responsibility is to implement plans or policies that have been created outside of their area of responsibility, the scope for leadership is far less than in situations where an individual is given (or able to take up) a free rein to innovate, to experiment and to inspire others to become involved in creating something new.
Look at any major organisational transformation and you will often find centre stage a highly visible leader, focused on the big picture. The ‘transformational leader’ is intent on inspiring people, communicating broadly and creating change in individuals and social systems. Frequently, their success is also contingent on surrounding themselves with effective managers who take care of the details. The so-called charismatic leader’s success usually depends also on skilled management provided by others. Such managers are often willing to work away from the limelight to ensure follow through and engagement with big ideas at all levels in the organisation.
Sometimes an organisational role holds much scope for leadership, and leadership is expected, but the role holder fails to lead, opting instead to await direction and to follow others’ lead, assuming that leadership always comes from ‘above’. Such misreading of expectations can be frustrating for colleagues and severely career-limiting for the individual concerned. So too can adopting a leadership stance when compliant followership is expected. Knowing what is expected by your colleagues and by people to whom you report is critical.
To be effective, managers must ensure that the staff who report to them, or on whose work they depend, are motivated and engaged and that they have a sense of purpose in what they do. This involves creating an environment in which staff feel empowered, satisfied with their work and progress toward their full potential. Good leadership as well as competent management is required for these outcomes to be achieved. And leadership can also take many forms beyond the ‘charismatic’ model.
How clear are you about the scope for leadership in your current role or in a role you are contemplating putting your hand up for? Does your organisation have a hierarchical approach to leadership and a culture of awaiting direction from above? Or is there a culture of ‘distributed leadership’ in which individuals at all levels who, seeing what needs to be done, are willing and able to influence others to make things happen? How confident are you that your assessment of the leadership potential matches what is expected by your boss or your prospective boss?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ mix of leadership and management competencies. Leadership style and getting the balance right between management and leadership depend on a myriad factors including the scope of your role, the extent of authority and responsibility delegated to you, the organisation’s culture, the nature of the organisation’s work and your personal working style preferences. Achieving the right balance and finding a leadership style that works for you involves self awareness, openness to feedback and willingness to learn about what works and what is expected in any specific situation.
Most contemporary organisations require people at all levels to develop appropriate measures of both leadership and management skills. Whatever your current role or the role you aspire to hold, using the self-assessment instrument overleaf in the ways explained will help you discover the optimal mix for your particular circumstances.
The Leadership/Management self assessment instrument overleaf comprises fourteen scales with contrasting competencies located at the extremities of each scale; in the left hand column, leadership competencies and in the rightmost column, management competencies. Many roles in contemporary organisations require a mix of the competencies represented on each scale.
For a quick self-assessment, mark each scale at the appropriate point to reflect where you see yourself. For example, if you expend about 25% of your time and energy focused on the future and about 75% of your time and energy on issues of current concern, place a mark at the first vertical bar from the left on the first scale.
Follow this procedure with each of the other 13 scales to discover your current mix.
The leadership/management self assessment instrument has a range of other uses and some of these are suggested on the page following the instrument.
Other uses of the Leadership/management self-assessment
You can use the leadership/management self assessment instrument in any or a combination of the following ways:
A. Thinking about your current role and how you divide your time and energy rate yourself against each of the fourteen scales for a clearer view of your current leadership/management mix.
B. Against each scale consider what would be the ideal mix given the expectations of you in your current role. The difference in your results between A and B would provide a basis for a personal professional development plan.
C. Ask a colleague to rate how they perceive you. Whilst their assessment should not be a substitute for your own assessment any discrepancies will provide you with food for thought in your professional development planning.
D. Ask your boss to rate how they perceive you.
E. Define the mix of management/leadership competencies required for a particular role into which you need to recruit. The results from this would provide useful input into the recruitment process.
F. Use the scales to define the ideal role for you given your career interests personality profile and demonstrable competencies.
A note for language enthusiasts
The origin of the word ‘management’ is the Latin word manus which means ‘hand’ whereas ‘leadership’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word laed meaning ‘path’ or ‘road’. It follows that management is about handling things and leadership is about moving in a direction.
About the Author
Janet Fitzell is an independent organisational consultant coach and facilitator specialising in organisational and leadership development governance and performance improvement and team planning and development through FourLeaf Consulting (www.fourleaf.com.au).
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