Managing vs. Leading

I have been thinking about this post for quite some time. I have been working with a number of different organizations in the past month or so, and have been toying with this in my head. I hate when it gets stuck in my head, I have to write it out. Please bare with me.

From my background, I have done a lot of managing teams over my career. I even have taught “new” managers how to be successful. Since I am working with different organizations, I am witnessing struggles of managing and leading. I am pretty sure that many of the folks that I am interacting with are pretty good at managing. The part that I see is missing is around leadership. Managing and leading are two very different concepts and require different tactics. What are some of those differences? Using my experiences and interactions with the folks of the past couple of months, I believe there are many but three standout.

Change Your Frame of Reference: As a manager you are really following a prescribed path. That path maybe meeting critical deadlines, milestones or delivering on a roadmap. Whatever it is, it usually is already charted out and those that can manage their teams to accomplish that path, win. From my experience, I have been rewarded well, for what my team and I have accomplished. You must think differently when you are leading. Leadership has the task of setting that path and/or changing the momentum. Just look at when Steve Jobs came back to Apple – he really led Apple to the success we all see today. He came in and changed the momentum (bankruptcy to very financially successful). I have used many times in my teaching of new managers that being a good manager will amplify the momentum and bad managers will slow it down, but leadership can radically change momentum. I have heard from many that they tweak and fine tune the processes – that makes you a very good manager. You want radical change? You need a leader!

Story Time: Communication is a big difference between manager and leader. When you think of managerial communication, you first thoughts are around logical and precise. I bet you have heard the saying, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Make that message clear, crisp and concise. Leadership communication is more about connecting with the folks at an emotional level. Okay, you are thinking this is too touchy feely. Well, maybe so. There are many examples out there that make a team do some extraordinary items that normally would not have happened without a strong leader communicating. When I was coaching sports teams, I would use stories that were real and timely for those players on my teams. Getting them fired up! I believe that is the same thing that has to happen when a leader is communicating, telling a story. How else are you going to make an emotional connection?

Your Teams Culture: There needs to be some working norms within a team. I see companies with their vision statements. I know of one organization that is the “new leader” is trying to change the culture of the organization with little success. Trying to manage the change in the culture. Not going to work. The best advice I received from a leader that I would follow anywhere is, “You want a certain culture, it is all about how you conduct yourself. Every single day.” It comes down to which actions and attitudes that I validate and reward. If you want something to continue – let people know that this is spot on (reward if necessary). For those actions and attitudes you don’t want – call them out as well!

For me, managing has become second nature. I can just about manage any team that is working on anything. What is important to me, is becoming a leader as well. Being that person that can step up and think differently, make a connection when communicating and leading by example. If I can do those things well, I feel the rest falls into place.