Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lead or Manage?

As I was reading last night, this passage really struck a chord:

"Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership. Management is about generating yesterday's results, but a little faster or a little more cheaply. We know how to manage the world-we relentlessly seek to cut costs and to limit variation, while we exalt obedience.

Leadership, though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No manual, no rule book, no ├╝berleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. If you ask someone for the rule book on how to lead, you're secretly wishing to be a manger."
                                                             -Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

Maybe I have been in middle-management for too long, but these paragraphs made me pause. I bet I reread them ten times last night and as I am writing this, I've reread them another three. I don't think most people look at leading and management this way. I've always thought of them being similar and even going hand in hand, but they don't. They aren't even dissimilar, but diametrically opposed.

When I first read this, I didn't understand what Seth Godin was trying to say. Honestly, I was a little confused. The more I thought about leadership and management though, the more this made sense. Leadership is not only more, but is also different than management. Even though many people utilize the terms as synonyms, they are not. I have been in meetings where we have bounced between talking about managing people and leading them, sometimes in the same breath. The problem arises when we try to manage people while thinking we are leading them.

You can't manage and lead at the same time. Too often, our leaders become trapped in the idea of managing people (or the world around them) and by doing so, stop leading. There are also a lot of people who call themselves leaders, but do nothing more than manage. We have enough managers in the world, but we are very short on leaders. Leading is more difficult and a hell of a lot scarier, but it does so much more. Look at yourself...when you think you have been leading, have you really? I know I haven't.

What can we do differently to lead instead of manage? (Hint: this is going to be different for each and every one of us. You have to figure out what you can do differently and I have to figure out what I can do differently.)

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