Leadership and Management

Leadership and management are poorly understood by most individuals and organizations today. I want to bring some clarity regarding both concepts by sharing with you a basic understanding of what they mean — a broad overview of leadership and management. Writing about them in depth is beyond the scope of any one piece.

So what is leadership and management? Leadership is about doing the right things first, while management is about doing them the right way. Without proper leadership, management is pointless.

Management without leadership is ineffective. Leadership without management is inefficient. It’s better to have good leadership and poor management than to have poor leadership and good management, though you want both.

Leadership is the “What” and the “Why”, while management is the “How” and the “When”. In terms of order, leadership always comes first. It doesn’t matter which road you take (management) if you don’t know where you’re going (leadership). Leadership is about using the heart, management is about using the mind, and where the heart leads, the mind follows. The best practices of management cannot compensate for lack of leadership.

Leaders inspire others through their reasons for WHY they do things. They have character, they challenge the status quo, and they focus on innovating, not just fixing/improving things. They are visionaries. They don’t ask the question “Why?”, but “Why not?” instead.

Leaders lead by example. They don’t ask people to do something that they themselves won’t do. When times are tough, they don’t fire their employees, but take responsibility for it and figure out a way forward.

Leaders trust others to do the right thing. Leaders delegate responsibility/outcomes to others without micromanaging or looking over their shoulders. They facilitate greatness in their people, which they know is already inherent. They realize and understand that it is their job to bring it out. Leaders always take responsibility for the failure of their teams (family or organization). Leaders always share credit with their teams.

Leadership begins with self. Unless and until we can lead ourselves, we cannot lead others (at home or at work). It starts with having the end in mind (leadership), and then working backwards to make it happen (management).

As individuals, we need to be both leaders and managers of our own lives. That is to say that we need to play both roles at opportune times. We need to think about our work (leadership) and then do the work (management). I covered this in Thinking and Doing. We need to examine our lives frequently to ensure that we are on the right track.

Always strive to work on the right things first. Doing them efficiently is secondary. Most of the so-called technophiles on the web care about how they are doing things when they should be focused on working on the right things.

Leadership is about making things happen and not waiting for things to happen. It’s about taking initiative and doing the right thing. You don’t wait for permission — you simply do it because you believe it’s the right thing to do.

In organizations, we have different stakeholders playing these roles. We need both leaders and managers in a broad sense. Leaders are the Why people, and Managers are the How and When people. The work of leaders is to inspire those they serve. The work of managers is to make the vision of the leader happen. A great example of this is Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. While Jobs was the visionary behind Apple (The Why), Woz was the one making things happen behind the scenes (How and the When). Every successful partnership needs both kinds of people to bring ideas to fruition.

Here are some leadership myths I’ve come across:

Contrary to popular belief, a leader is not supposed to know everything. It is perfectly acceptable for him to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out”. A good leader knows his organization, but mentally takes a position that his people know better. Even if he does know, he is supposed to be a “know all, tell not” person. Every time we solve a problem for others, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn and grow into a leader. In essence, his role is to facilitate his team and, by extension, his organization. His team is the expert in its respective field.

Leadership has nothing to do with position/rank or authority. How else would you explain Gandhi’s leadership for an independent India without an official title from the government? Lead from where you are instead of waiting to get promoted.

The top team (board members or senior teams) in most organizations is referred to as “management”, when in fact they are the “leadership” behind their respective organizations.

Most organizations evaluate leadership based on how their teams are performing whilst leaders lead them. And when they are gone, the organizations perform poorly. Few organizations understand that true leadership can only be measured after a leader leaves the organization. That is possible only when they get others to think for themselves instead of doing their thinking for them. Leadership is about helping others make good decisions instead of making them for them. The job of a leader is to make more leaders, not followers.

Here are some examples of manifestations of leadership and management in our everyday lives:

  • Having the right mindset (leadership) is more important than knowing the tactics (management). Tactics are irrelevant in the absence of mindset.

  • Strategy without execution is pointless. Execution without strategy is aimless.

  • Our beliefs (leadership) determine our actions (management).

  • Setting inspiring and concrete goals is an example of self-leadership. Getting there using appropriate systems is proper management.

When you understand the concepts of leadership and management, it helps clarify a lot of things. It helps us understand that true leadership begins with self. Only when we lead ourselves well can we lead others. Leadership is based on the foundation of values and trust and always comes first — management always comes second. Without proper leadership, management is irrelevant.

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