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Are we talking management or leadership?

Are we talking management or leadership?

Manger in front of teamIs it clear to you if someone is in need of additional management skills or needs leadership development? How do management and leadership differ? Do great managers need leadership training? Let’s consider Peggy. She has just been promoted from an engineering role—working within a team of peers—to a manager—overseeing two large teams. She’s been promoted because someone saw her assuming leadership of her team when it floundered. Does she need management training, leadership training, or both?

What does a manager do?

Great managers quote

While managers have different responsibilities based on their assigned roles within an organization, there are some common duties. A manager sets objectives, gathers information, directs and delegates activities, organizes people and resources, builds organizational structures, motivates, measures, and develops his or her staff. Peggy has been a natural leader on her team, but probably needs help learning to delegate, direct, and organize resources she now controls. While she didn’t have a hard time holding people on her team accountable for their tasks, she’s never been the one to assign tasks or evaluate tasks before.

One difference between leaders and managers is that a manager has direct access to the individuals being managed. Managers can enjoy a one-to-one relationship with direct reports and peers. A manager is seldom asked to speak for the entire organization, or represent it to all customers, investors, media outlets, etc. Having that direct access means that it’s the manager’s job to reward good performance and challenge poor performance. Peggy’s former manager was not skilled at using performance reviews or giving feedback so training will be helpful to her.

Managers are responsible for engaging and retaining employees, which differs from maintaining good relationships with colleagues. Peggy must resist blaming any poor team performance or turnover on problem personalities; she must learn how her own behaviors can considering how their own management style can affect employee satisfaction, performance, and turnover.

The manager is also called upon to show leadership abilities. This is illustrated by managers who are able to create a positive work environment, make employees care about contributing, and can translate the organization’s vision into a unit-level vision. Will Peggy have the platform or resources available to make her voice heard and to make changes in the company?

Six leadership skills as defined by PXT Select Leadership Report.

Six leadership skills as defined by PXT Select Leadership Report.

What does a leader do?

Leaders can be found in any location in an organization and do not have to be in a formal leadership role. Think of people you have followed or been influenced by. Has it only been people in positions of power? Have you followed the position or the message? Have you ever followed a leader who was actually working counter to the desires of a person in a more powerful position?

Great organizational leaders are messengers who inspire employees and give them a reason to come to work each day. It might be a peer who is best able to share her perspectives and motivate another. Or it could be the CEO who can tell the story of the organization and make others want to be a part of its mission. Wherever the leader is located in the organization, he or she injects meaning into the surrounding environment.

Peggy has a solid understanding of her teams’ roles within her unit and how they support the entire organization, but she has never before had the platform to speak about it directly to her colleagues in other units. She could raise the status of her teams and create a less siloed environment. You could take advantage of her inclinations and nascent skills by giving her training in leadership.

It might be a team leader who inspires trust, loyalty, and commitment, as it seems Peggy has done on a small scale. Sometimes that leader can work contrary to the goals or the organization, but that doesn’t make him less of a leader. He has followers, after all. And that’s why achieving alignment is such a large part of the Work of Leaders model. An organization has the best chance for success when all its leaders are aligned and rowing in the same direction for the same distant shore. To keep Peggy and her team from positioning themselves as inflexible guardians of their turf, you might want to give her additional leadership training with new peers in other units.

A leader nurtures, develops, and inspires others with an eye toward specific results. A manager can dish out rewards and punishments. But a leader attempts to understand those around him, to achieve a bi-directional clarity of communication with them, and to develop the potential of others. A leader gives followers a sense of purpose and a reason for achieving results. Learning and practicing better and flexible communication skills is almost always a good investment in any employee, whether through part of a management or leadership training.

A leader innovates. Bureaucracies and large companies can have a hard time allowing their top staff to exercise this leadership quality. Instead of leaders, managers of the status quo are the ones promoted. Peggy was not promoted to create teams just like those of the past few years, but seems to find innovation difficult so would benefit from this part of a leadership program.

Is Peggy being groomed to be a better manager or leader? I hope you invest in both roles. If I’m her direct report, I want her to be managing team resources well as a manager and I want her to be looking for new business opportunities as a leader. As an investor I want her to be looking for process improvements as a manager and, as a leader, preparing the entire company for the change they will bring. As her peer I want her to both do things right and do the right things.

Management, leadership and DiSC

When people ask us if they should be using the Everything DiSC Management or the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders profile, we ask about their end goal for participants. Do you need people who are better managers or better leaders? Both are legitimate roles and some organizations use both tools, but in different contexts.

Someone new to management probably needs to master that role and be confident in it before focusing on leadership skills. People will turn to them for leadership, however, and a mentor might be a better resource for a time than any formal leadership training.

Let’s consider the trait of confidence. Displays of confidence can sometimes mislead us. “The main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence…,” states Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review Blogs. Furthermore, he says “arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas to work for the common interest of the group.” Training should lead to competence, and the confidence of the followers in their leader.

Incipient changes in your marketplace or workplace tend to require more leadership than management. At such times, people who are obviously seen as leaders could have those skills nurtured first, even if they are also moving into management. As an example, I once worked in a role without positional power but which reached across numerous silos within a rapidly changing organization, allowing me to be very influential. I was put through a leadership program, not a management one, even though I did manage a few people. I lacked several management abilities, but the need of the organization for leadership took priority.

A 360 review, such as Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders, can be used to give you a better idea of where someone needs to develop. Both the needs of the individual, the team being managed, and the organization must be considered. All organizations can benefit by providing their new managers with management and leadership training, coaching, or mentoring.


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