Leadership & management
Every organization could use more skillful leadership and management. Here we offer some tips, suggestions, and concepts to consider.
How do we define leadership as opposed to management?
Leadership can appear anywhere in an organization. Your leaders might be in the C-suite, at the manager level, or in entry-level positions. Leadership is more about influence than power. Here’s a definition from Harvard Business Review:
“Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.”
Everything DiSC Work of Leaders® offers a different definition:
Everything DiSC Work of Leaders approaches leadership as a one-to-many relationship, as opposed to the one-to-one relationship of management.
Others see leaders as those who have people follow them while managers have people who work for them. However you or your organization defines leadership, you probably want more people to develop leadership skills. And leadership skills can be taught, just as the skills of a manager can. They just need to be identified.
Leadership and management skills
You’ll find leadership skills taught in management courses and management skills taught in courses for executives. While this is overly simplified, consider the different skills needed by leaders and by managers in light of what they tend to get recognition for.
Leaders get recognized for:
- Sharing their vision and inspiring others to share in it. Infusing a sense of shared purpose and direction.
- Paying attention to the marketplace, the environment, the climate, evolving technologies, etc., and seeing new opportunities or challenges ahead.
- Emotional intelligence and self-knowledge, knowing what they need help with, and having confidence in their own expertise and skills.
- Communication abilities. These might include public speaking, but also include utilizing the best channels for communicating to different audiences, using appropriate language, or telling a persuasive story. Also being exceptional listeners.
- Taking charge and accepting responsibility; holding oneself accountable.
- Setting a standard of mutual respect and dignity, competition, and debate. Setting goals for the collective interests, not just one’s own.
- Having high expectations while being personally humble; publicly valuing the contributions of others.
- Willingness to take risks and to meet failure with creativity and experimentation. Knowing when to reevaluate options.
Managers get recognized for:
- Effectively delegating tasks and motivating others to complete them.
- Developing their staff and coaching them for better performance.
- Their organizational and time management abilities; their efficiencies.
- Their knowledge of the capabilities of their teams, advocating for their needs, championing their successes, and holding them accountable for performance.
- Great communication skills, including providing timely feedback, mitigating or resolving conflicts, encouraging collaboration, and shepherding information up and down the organizational hierarchy.
- Having the technical or specialized skills that allow them to understand, or even do, the work of their staff.
- Creating a positive and inclusive work environment.
There’s a lot of overlap, especially in terms of the softer skills such as communication and emotional intelligence. Perhaps the top reason for this is that these skills build trust. Often the strongest praise from a follower or a managed employee comes in comments along the lines of “They practice what they preach” or “They put their money where their mouth is.”
There’s also a necessary skill that tends to get ignored: knowing when and how to recharge. Burnout and stress can be catching, and both good leaders and good managers find ways to unwind and make time for reflection.
Hopefully, no one is getting promoted for sitting in meetings, answering emails, and simply putting in long hours. Those are not good measures of productivity or leadership.
Leadership and management quotes
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
— Stephen Covey, American educator, author, and businessman
“The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.”
— Warren G. Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author
“Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.”
— Vineet Nayar, Indian business executive and author
“Leadership is not a function but is instead a relationship, whereas management is a function.”
— Michael Maccoby, American psychoanalyst and anthropologist
“Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.”
— Abraham Zaleznik, Harvard Business School professor, psychoanalyst, and author
“The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.”
How to develop leadership and management skills
All the skills we’ve identified are teachable. Some will come more easily than others. And, almost always, all the skills are necessary to be a really great leader or manager.
Assessments can help identify both strong and weak skills, allowing an individual or organization to seek out specialized training or coaching. Assessments might be something like the Leadership Practices Inventory, the PXT Select Leadership Report, or many others. These work best when reviewed with a coach or mentor.
Communication, like many skills, can be developed through practice and feedback. There are many executive communication coaches to be found with a simple web search.
Business schools all offer programs, often shorter than a degree program, for leadership training. You may find that the opportunities for networking with peer leaders that these programs afford can be as productive as the instruction.
Books we recommend:
- The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, 7th Edition, James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner
- The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Deliver Better Results Faster, 5th Edition, George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, John A. Lawler
- The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, Amy C. Edmondson
- True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition, Bill George
- Culture Is the Way: How Leaders at Every Level Build an Organization for Speed, Impact, and Excellence, Matthew Mayberry