Getting leadership and management in your organization

There's a difference in the skills sets for leadership and those for management. Learn the difference and how to incorporate the best of both worlds in your organization.

Early in my career, I thought that leadership was what the people at the very top of the organization did and that management was what all of the people in the middle of the organizational structure did. However, while this positional view is correct in many organizations, it does not need to be that way. Management and leadership are both necessary components of a successful organization of any size. Here's why.

The differences between leadership and management

The role of a leader in any organization is to set the direction. A leader is the first to envision a future position for the organization and first to evangelize that position. Leadership is about finding a point on the horizon and saying, loudly and firmly, we should go there.

Management focuses on keeping the ship upright and moving in the direction that it's headed. It’s not about picking a point on the horizon and going there. Management is about plotting progress towards the spot on the horizon.

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Great organizations realize that being good at only one of these two roles is a great feat in itself, but a person who excels at both leadership and management is very difficult, if not impossible, to find. That’s why most organizations have a separate chief executive officer and a chief operations officer. The chief executive officer is the leader of the organization, responsible for charting a course. The chief operations officer is the manager responsible for making sure that the ship follows the charted course. They work together to make the organization as effective as possible.

The formula for success

An organization needs to synthesize a model of the leadership/management combination if it wants to be truly successful. If you're in the position to hire someone, you'll want to look for complementary skills. If you’re a natural leader you’ll want to hire someone with strong management skills. Similarly, if you’re great at managing things you’ll want to make sure that you include leaders in the organization so that you have a source for the leadership you’ll need. However, hiring these skills is a luxury that few managers can afford. Instead, consider how to identify and encourage these skills in the people you already have working with you.

Identifying a leader

Finding a good leader as a subordinate -- or even as a peer, if the structure of the organization allows -- is a difficult challenge. We create managers in our business world. Each day we beat into the unsuspecting workers the need to manage and control. In short, we repeatedly demonstrate what management is and why it’s important. Leadership often requires charting into uncharted territory. In other words, leaders must take risks. In western business, we don’t train people to take risks very well.

Leaders are often the impassioned people who will yell and kick and scream -- something that managers find detestable. When seeking out the leader that you need to support your ability to manage, look for the person most challenging to control. That person has potential as a leader.

You may also be able to identify a leader in your midst by finding someone who always has an idea of how things can be done differently than the status quo. People who have the courage to challenge how things have been done have the raw materials to be come a leader.

Identifying a manager

If you're looking for a manager, the ideal candidate to tap is one who likes routine,This person arrives at the same time each day and leaves at the same time. People who are regimented in what they do are generally great at management because they're good at executing the same control processes day in and day out.

You may also find a manager candidate in the person who is the most organized. The person doesn't have to be obsessed with being neat; however, there always seems to be organization to what they’re doing. They seek to organize, classify, and create structure for everything they do.

Engaging a counterpart

In most cases, you’ll want to try on your counterpart for size before announcing to them what you’re doing. You’ll want to start by asking your counterpart candidate questions and making requests which lead them into filling the role without exposing the grand vision. For your budding leader candidate, simple open-ended questions like "What do you think we should do about this opportunity?" can lead to a wealth of information. The manager may be able to respond to "Will you keep track of the action items for this series of meetings?" with the kind of support that you need.

Once you’re comfortable with your decision and the counterpart that you’ve chosen, it’s time to let them in on the grand plan--after all you don’t want her to leave after you’ve gotten to depend on her for something important. You’ll want to explain that she's an important part of leading and managing your department. This may mean exposing to her your limitations but it's likely necessary to allow her to understand what you’re saying.

Respecting your counterpart

Chances are that if you’ve followed the above process you’ve found someone within your organization to be your counterpart. That has in it an inherent challenge. As humans we tend to value, respect, and understand the value of the things we’re good at. A leader will recognize good leadership and a manager will recognize good management. However, in order to keep the balance it will be important to learn to respect the attributes that your counterpart brings. On the surface, this seems easy but it may be the most difficult part of incorporating both leadership and management in your organization. If you’re a leader, you’ll be tempted to plow ahead without project review meetings, milestones, and action item reviews. But these are the very things that a manager needs to manage. Similarly, as a manager you may not understand half-day meetings to discuss strategy.

Fight your natural tendencies and find a way to respect your counterpart and what he or she is doing to make you successful.