Saturday, January 19, 2013

Management vs Leadership

One of those planning conversations that so quickly goes off the rails into parts unknown, recently wandered into a discussion about management styles and corporate culture and odd assortment of other loosely connected things.

Along the way, there were several references to management styles and writings about the same. From time to time, someone speaking about a management style would reference a book or article about leadership and vice versa. The seemingly accepted interchangeability of these two concepts baffled me. To my mind, they are vastly different if loosely connected. Much in the way a wedding planner and a bride can often be interchanged but you wouldn't want to confuse one with the other.

An example of this was a reference to the style known as Management By Walking Around. There was an implication that the more face time managers have, they are not only more productive but more loyal. Which I totally disagree with. In my experience and extremely limited tracking on the subject I do agree that the frequency and depth of personal connection with contributors will increase productivity, provided that connection is about more than productivity. Should there fail to be an exhibition of leadership during these engagements, then a tipping point emerges where the contact becomes an inhibitor to productivity. Especially in areas requiring significant creativity or innovation. Prior to the tipping point for productivity being reached there can be observed a decrease in the attributes signifying loyalty.

The roadmap follows like this: too much face time without leadership makes employees feel over-managed and under-supported. They lose their part of the connection to the business objectives, they cease seeing their contribution being impactful. When they don't feel connected, they care less about their own productivity and eventually the productivity falls away. It's hard to stay productivity when you aren't inspired.

From the other direction, if you exhibit leadership too infrequently and with insufficient management, they might do their best to be productive but not know how to measure or account for what they do. They will then get frustrated at the disconnect between their hard work and successful business outcomes. In this case, business failings which is the summation of productivity, will be the precursor to diminishing loyalty. It's hard to stay loyalty to a leader in the face of failure.

Giving clear instruction and frequent oversight is management. Having actionable metrics and attainable objectives is good management. But these are nothing without inspiration, encouragement, a sense of purpose and a clear, personal connection to business outcomes. Ensuring people understand why they are working hard and have a transparent view of the impact they, specifically and personally, are making, that is leadership.

You can lead to long-term failure, you can manage to short-term success. Without leadership, your management won't have longevity and without management your leadership won't see results.

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