What does leadership do that management doesn’t?
How many times have you seen a list of behaviours or attributes that attempt to define leadership and management? Or a snappy one-liner that attempts to distil the essence of the difference between the two?
I find these lists or phrases often create more confusion than clarity for potential leaders.
They see attributes on the ‘leader’ list that they have as a manager and then attributes on the ‘manager’ list that they disagree with. Whilst these lists and phrases are generalisations, at best they might create a sage nodding of heads around a room without actually helping people further develop their leadership capacity.
It is fair to say that leadership and management are different things however they aren’t mutually exclusive. Most leaders will carry out some management duties and almost invariably managers will have some attributes of leaders. The reason they are managers in the first place is they have usually demonstrated some ability that has shown their potential for a more senior role.
Already this discourse is starting to veer into a thought trap – that leadership is linked to ‘managership’ or hierarchy. If we want to explore ‘What leadership does that management doesn’t?’ then we need to first recognise that leadership is not endowed by seniority (although seniority might follow leadership)!
So at the risk of offering a snappy one-liners what is it that leadership does that management doesn’t?
“Leadership makes a positive difference to a challenge a that require a collaborative response.”
Let’s break that down.
‘Leadership makes a positive difference’
This is about noticing what is happening around you and making things just a little bit better than they were.
This isn’t about hierarchy.
It’s about anyone who chooses to step forward and make a difference. For a CEO this might be about changes in strategy or creating a new vision or some other highly visible initiative however for most of us it’s about taking responsibility for what we can.
It’s about being pro-active rather than reactive. Focussing your time and energy on what you can influence rather than expending energy complaining that things should be different.
It’s about your attitude!
‘to a challenge a that require a collaborative response.’
This is where it gets more challenging.
It may well be possible for us to make positive changes that don’t require input or contributions from others. This might be changes to how we work to make things more effective or efficient, or improves customer service, or a multitude of other positive differences. This might get you noticed in a positive way as an individual contributor but doesn’t yet make you a leader.
Leadership requires generating a collaborative response, bringing people together to meet a challenge that requires people to be inter-dependent, a challenge that couldn’t be met simply by people working in parallel.
Leadership requires having a range of abilities, and the aptitude to use these abilities in the right way, at the right time with the right people.
This is about understanding the context you are leading in, and the people you are leading, in order to chose the best leadership response.
Take a situation like emergency surgery. Most definitely a challenge requiring a collaborative response but a situation where you need a leadership response that is more pacesetting and directive.
Contrast this with a large-scale project. A challenge that would also benefit from a collaborative response. A pacesetting and directive response may well complete the project but it is unlikely to be an inspiring and motivating environment that brings the best solutions to the table. Here you might benefit from more participative and coaching styles.
Developing your leadership attributes.
If we can accept that Leadership is ‘making a positive difference in response to challenges that require a collaborative response’ then the next question is how do we develop as leaders.
Firstly you need to develop the leadership skills, knowledge and behaviours that will be building blocks of your leadership toolkit. They might be coaching, listening, influencing, building organisational awareness, presenting, etc.
There are likely to be some broadly generic abilities that will work in most contexts, however you need to understand the challenges and culture in your organisation and ensure you develop abilities that might be more specific.
You then need to practice using these abilities in the right place, at the right time and with the right person.
To build a collaborative response you will need to be adept at flexing your style to suit the people and the environment. This requires practice, taking risks, seeking feedback and developing your self-awareness. Recognise your strengths and use them more, understand your weaknesses and what you might need to do to compensate for them.
A truly collaborative response requires people to believe in you as a person, to trust you and want to be engaged in the response. To feel they are part of something bigger than themselves that is motivating and inspiring.
Your leadership attitude will be driven by your own motivations and values. If your motivations and values are more selfish than selfless this will undoubtedly impact on the level of belief and trust people have in you and the response.
To develop a more selfless set of motivations and values requires looking deeply with-in yourself, deciding what sort of leadership legacy you what to be known for and making changes at a values level.