Leadership vs. Management: Closing the great divide

Although it might seem like it doesn’t make much of a difference, what we call the people at the top of the organisational hierarchy can have significant implications.

The quickening rate of change in modern business means there is now a plethora of titles that executives can hold these days, with more appellations constantly being devised. However, there are two that have stood the test of time and continue to be widely used in the workplace today: leader and manager.

Are these two essentially the same thing? Or is it worth digging into the semantics, looking at the different nuances of each and what they mean for modern executive development?

In reality, there are key differences between the two concepts – but they may be of equal importance for today’s executives.

The Leader

Literature over the years has tended to paint leaders as a charismatic figure at the head of the organisation, engaging, inspiring and motivating employees to succeed. A lot of focus has been placed on how the best leaders transcend their technical skills and expertise and hold the innate ability to stir up their workers and get the best out of them.

These attributes are, of course, essential – the Center for Creative Leadership’s ‘What Makes a Leader Effective?’ study, for example, found that respondents in the US ranked being charismatic as the top quality for effective leadership. This placed it ahead of other factors such as being team-oriented, participative and humane-oriented.

In summary, a business’s leader appeals to its higher ideals and vision and aims to excite these within employees. The ‘Leadership versus Management: A Key Distinction – At Least in Theory’ paper by Sam Houston State University’s Fred C. Lunenburg explains it perfectly. While a manager “executes plans, improves the present and sees the trees”, a leader “articulates a vision, creates the future and sees the forest”.

While this comparison highlights the importance and value of a leader, it also indicates that strong management skills are also crucial – and the modern leader needs to be a great manager as well.

The Manager

So if the leader is in charge of guiding the organisation through its groundbreaking new steps, what does the manager do? An equally important role, according to Lunenburg – while a leader creates change, he says, the manager is responsible for managing that change.

Alan Murray’s Wall Street Journal Guide to Management, quoting leadership expert Warren Bennis, puts it another way – the leader develops, while the manager maintains. In addition, Bennis reiterates the different but equally vital perspectives the two take: the leader watches the horizon, while the manager has their eye on the bottom line.

In business, managing the day-to-day short term is just as important as taking a long-term view into the future, a notion that is reinforced by the branches of leadership and management – and how they complement each other.

Putting two and two together

As these analyses suggest, leadership and management can seem like polar opposites that are difficult to reconcile. However, in order to truly succeed in the modern business world, executives should focus on how they can leverage both their leadership and management capabilities, making them work for each other for the good of the organisation.

2015 Modern leadership: working smarter not harder

As a C-level executive do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally this year? What about over the next 18 months to 5 years? You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely they get buried in the demands of the day-to-day.

But how important is it to get specific and strategic about goal setting?

Many leaders feel as though they work very hard both in and on their businesses and yet they don’t achieve the results they want or the work life balance they need. A key reason is they haven’t dedicated time to think clearly and strategically about what it is they want to achieve. There is also a lack of accountability and follow through on implementation. An important step is to have a clear vision of what your leadership priorities are, and what you want to achieve; having a clear vision.

“More than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for their company,” writes Peter Vanden Bos for Inc.

What if we told you the solution is to work smarter, not harder?

In New York Times bestseller What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting.

He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them.

84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that weren’t written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals.

However, the 3% with written objectives for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times as much as the other students put together

Goal-setting paybacks

Identifying effective goals and setting a plan to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives.

This has a significant impact on productivity that is difficult to ignore, both on a personal and professional level. Whether you’re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the additional focus that is essential to reaching the top.

American business consultant and author Jim Collins offers similar advice, which is why he’s famous for coining the term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ – or BHAG.

The phrase refers to the long-term proposals that are the hallmark to some of the world’s most successful business leaders. “It is about goal setting. It is about picking a goal that will stimulate change and progress and making a resolute commitment to it,” Collins explains. “This is not about writing a mission statement. This is about going on a mission.”

Working smarter, not harder

The SMART format for goal setting has been around for many years and it’s a common practice among high achievers, as it establishes a helpful framework for gauging the effectiveness of goals and objectives.

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – specify who will do it.
Results orientated – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time sensitive – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Goals that meet this criteria have a much better chance of positive outcomes, in Peter F. Drucker’s popular HBR article What Makes an Effective Executive he states  ‘executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been transformed into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course’.

‘Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events. And without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise’.

Ultimately, leaders who set goals both personally and professionally have the direction and focus required to pursue powerful strategic objectives. Modern leaders have the ability to set and achieve progressive goals and distil this into business metrics.

So how do you drive strategic goal setting? Every leader has business obligations whether it’s focused on innovation, becoming the premier distributing vendor, taking your company public or creating the best consumer experience. TEC Goal Setting is an effective way to incorporate this into your personal and professional life through a highly customised learning experience, credible resource of content and accountability.

5 inspirational quotes to start your day

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

It’s hard to disagree with that statement, just one of the many pearls of wisdom from leadership guru John C. Maxwell.

The greatest leaders, whether in the field of business, politics or otherwise, have provided countless similar gems over the years and mulling over a particularly inspirational quote can be the perfect start to your day.

In fact, this Business Insider article from January 2014 suggests that “inspirational reading” is one of the seven best ways to start your day right. Instead of getting bogged down in the morning news, reading something inspiring or uplifting can help you kick off your day and provide the energy to get through your work.

So, in addition to getting up early, having a good breakfast and organising and planning your day, what else can you do? Well, as this recent TEC blog article suggests – make sure you give yourself time to read at least one good quote every morning before you begin your work. Here are just five of our top picks to get you started.

1. “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

The legendary American president remains an inspiration to millions across the world, and one of his most famous quotes fits perfectly in the business arena.

When undertaking any major project, the majority of your effort should be invested in the planning and preparation stage. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive strategic plan will put you on the front foot and ensure you have everything in place to hit the ground running.

2. “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” – Tom Peters

This sage piece of advice from writer Tom Peters makes clear the crucial difference between management and leadership, and what separates the very best leaders from those who are merely good.

The most effective leaders realise their role extends beyond simply telling their subordinates what to do. Instead, they invite them to join their leadership journey and make the effort to help them grow.

3. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

One of history’s greatest ever military leaders, Napoleon knows a thing or two about good leadership.

As mentioned above, the best leaders do more than just issue orders. Great leaders know how to empower and motivate their staff to strive for the company’s vision and can inspire hope in them, even when times are tough.

4. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  – Walt Disney

Walt Disney inspired generations of children and adults alike, and is a great example of how hard work can make dreams come true.

One of the most essential ingredients of success, of course, is courage. Do you have the courage to lead your company and make its vision come true?

5. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

As another great American president pointed out, education is a lifelong commitment – we simply never stop learning.

Even the most acclaimed business leaders can learn plenty more simply by interacting with similar individuals around them. That is why continuous leadership development is one of the wisest investments you can make – both in a personal and business sense.