If an organization of any kind is going to function successfully, it needs both leadership and management. While some people use those terms interchangeably, they are, in fact, distinctly different and valuable functions in order to create an environment of productivity and performance.
Leaders, in the simplest terms, are people that other people follow. Think about someone who inspires you to want to participate in a cause, goal or vision. Who do you know that makes you say, “I want to be part of what he or she is doing?” Leaders cast the vision and move things and people forward.
While great leaders may motivate you to be part of something by stirring your desire to participate, they don’t always possess the organizational skills or attention to detail required to make the vision happen. A successful organization needs someone who can provide structure and efficient processes in order to accomplish the goal. Even lofty ideals need to be upheld by someone supervising workers who operate equipment, pay bills, coordinate supplies, help clients or customers and generally make sure the work is accomplished. Managers build teams and processes to ensure things are done right.
Occasionally you may encounter someone with both leadership and management skills, but it is uncommon to excel at both. In my role as a coach I have worked with people in executive positions who were frustrated and uncomfortable with their jobs and some had received negative feedback from their staff and/or superiors. In time, it can become apparent that the talented manager has been placed in a leader role, or vice versa.
One of your strongest allies in helping you make critical career decisions is being aware of your own personality, interests, skills and natural abilities. Are you a “big picture” person with a desire to share a vision with others? Or does your mind immediately begin planning the steps and manpower necessary to make that big picture a reality? No organization can thrive without both of these elements in place, and you will be far more successful and more satisfied if your responsibilities match your style.
If you are not sure which type of role is best suited for you, there are a number of reliable assessment tools available that can help you identify your personality type, your management and/or leadership style and strengths and other relevant qualities. An executive coach can recommend specific materials and resources to help clarify which role you are best suited to fulfill in an organization.
If you are looking to better understand your role as a leader, as well as continue to develop leadership competencies, I recommend The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. If you are in management and desire to add to the depth and breadth of your understanding of the role I recommend High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove. This book has been around for awhile, but it’s lessons are still highly relevant today.
Do you see yourself as a leader or a manager? How did you learn to identify your areas of strength on the job?
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.