I’ve been thinking a lot about management and leadership these days and you’ve heard my call to action to help all managers lead better.

Two added thoughts on this:

  1. Managers must also be good leaders. I am not saying that management is bad. (But some do think management is bad, and I take issue with their thinking.)
  2. Many individuals in positions of authority may love the management aspect of their roles too much, to the detriment of leading well.

Management, and being a manager, doesn’t deserve the hate

I’ve heard respected leaders, who are often also thought leaders, say the term “manager” should be removed from business. I think they believe it runs counter to empowerment, self-management, and other indicators of a healthy organization. But throwing out a word won’t change culture, and the word (and role) of manager is not the main issue. Management doesn’t deserve the hate. Misinterpretation or misuse of what being a manager means is the issue.

Every manager, from newly appointed to chief executive, has management responsibilities. That is, making decisions, improving processes and systems, connecting people, and allocating resources to brilliantly execute the strategic plan.

We need some vehicle of management—whether in a hierarchy with management levels, full self-management, or something in between—to support people with what they need to do their best work.

Too much management with too little leadership isn’t working.

What Peter Drucker wrote in 1959 (in People and Performance) remains true today:

 “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Managing, when one should be leading, doesn’t work if you’re aiming to remain a vibrant business. Do we love managing so much that we (managers) prioritize it over leading?

When we love management responsibilities (and position), we tend to expand managing work to also include managing people (attempting to manage people, that is). While the phrase “managing people” is common, it really isn’t appropriate. Managing involves managing what work is needed, and the context around work that people do: selecting, training, allocating, connecting, resourcing, communicating, etc.

If you feel your role is to manage people, then you’ll have a tough road ahead. Attempting to manage people will result in what’s unhealthy for today’s workplace culture: command, control, micro-management, and individuals in management roles who don’t care about the success of others. People being “managed” become disheartened. Over time people leave their “bad bosses.”

What is it that we love so much about management?

It may be that we strive for positional authority so that we can “be the boss.” I see that. I also see a lack of trust, which makes it hard to empower others or to feel empowered.

What I see most often, though, is good people who are capable as leaders choosing comfort. Management is simply what they feel most comfortable doing.

Management involves what is known or can be discovered. Leadership is about the future; the unknown. In managing, there are boxes to check as “done” and projects that have an end date. Not so in leadership.

Let’s start with ourselves

Before judging other managers as wrong and putting them in training, hoping to improve how effectively they manage, consider that pointing people to training to fix what’s not working in the present is an act management! Are you focusing on improving short term outcomes, from the work people do? That’s management. Or are you building a better future, for people? That’s leadership. What do you love about management? What might you do instead, or in addition, as a leader?

Here’s one question (of many) that might help you think through this: What am I doing, and how am I being, that is an attempt to manage people rather than creating greater empowerment of others in their roles?

Your best next step

For your “Your 1 Best Next Step,” consider your balance between managing and leading. What would it take for you to lead more (and better)?



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Lori is The Pivot Catalyst. A trusted advisor and coach, who catalyzes momentum for leaders and teams. The result is lasting business agility--even performance breakthroughs.
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