Find the Balance: Leading and Managing Each Serve Purpose
There are thousands of quotes about leadership from famous, successful and admirable people across the globe touting everything from humility, motivation and servanthood to power, success and self-awareness. But when determining whether and how to climb the management ladder, how does one determine what qualities and characteristics will lead to success, both personal and organizational?
There are two ways to climb that upward ladder – as a manager or as a leader. But what is the difference between managing and leading, and is one truly better than the other?
“In the simplest terms, you manage things and lead people,” said DOCJT Leadership Instructor Chip White.
Management refers to tasks such as doing time sheets and payroll, or setting financial goals, White explained.
“People often fall more on the management side because it’s more black and white,” White said. “You can tell whether you’re hitting number goals and tell people what to do to meet those goals. But leaders see the need to do something and inspire people to produce more to reach the goal.
“So you have to have both and you need to know when to use what skill,” White continued.
For some people, finding this balance can be difficult. It is entirely possible for managers to lead and for leaders to manage, but the skills required to be good at either one are separate and distinct, and the same person many not be good at both.
“Leaders look forward and imagine the possibilities that the future may bring in order to set direction,” James Kerr said in an Inc.com article titled, The Leadership Checklist: 10 Principles That Make Leading Easier. “Managers monitor and adjust today’s work, regularly looking backward to ensure that current goals and objectives are being met.
“The best leaders lead and let their management teams manage the work at hand,” he added.
This means that in any organization those leading should not do so alone, but instead surround themselves with competent, trustworthy people who can help execute the vision and implement plans to achieve goals – the entire team working in tandem to successfully move the organization forward.
Where’s the Focus
Often, White said, managers focus on task completion and goal reaching, and they view people in the organization as a means to an end instead of the focus.
“The big thing about leaders is they realize it is all about people – people come first,” White said. “If you take care of people, then the organizational goals will be met, people will be happier and they’ll be more satisfied with their jobs. They will be more inspired and more motivated. There are all kinds of studies that say people perform better if the motivation comes from inside, not being told they have to do it.”
Commonly, the higher up in an agency people move, the more management skills they need because they have less direct contact with the boots-on-the-ground workforce, White said. Which means leadership behavior and development isn’t reserved for those at the top of the organization, but people – focused leadership begins at the ground level of the organization with those closest to the workforce. First-line supervisors and sergeants must develop those leadership skills of relating to and inspiring people because those officers in their charge are the heart of the agency and the face of law enforcement in their communities.
“The biggest things leaders forget that makes them act like managers is they don’t make decisions with empathy and think about how their decision will affect people,” White said. “They may only be thinking of organizational goals or their self, and not that these decisions they make have a real effect on people’s lives – and not just their work life, but their home life, because people don’t leave work at the department door.
“People need to be more empathetic about the decisions they make,” he continued. “Leaders do that and managers don’t.”
Before anyone can be empathetic to others, he or she needs to develop a relationship with those he or she is leading. Through building trust and demonstrating a willingness to admit when they’ve made a mistake, White said leaders will foster an environment that promotes openness, honesty and confidence.
These relationships also open the door for leaders to ask for and receive honest feedback from those they lead, their peers and those above them. This kind of 360-degree feedback can facilitate self-evaluation.
“Most leaders think they’re doing a good job,” White said. “Nobody tells them they need to do a better job and some just don’t know. But if you’re constantly evaluating how your decisions work out and whether or not it added or took away value, that’s how you improve as a leader.”
This idea of self-awareness and mindfulness, when done in a positive way, helps leaders to daily look at the decisions they made and how they affected other people. Then they can decide what they could have done differently and how they can do better in the future, White said.
“You can’t approach it like, ‘Aww man, I screwed that up, I’m a horrible leader,’” White said. “But instead, you should look at things as a learning process and choose to fail forward. We all make mistakes, and you can look at it as an opportunity for growth.”
In turn, this mindset will filter down to a leader’s followers, as they learn that trying something new is encouraged and if it doesn’t work out, they will be given the opportunity to grow from it and not make the same mistake again.
In the battle between leading and managing, there really is no clear winner. Both are important to the success of an organization. Leaders generally focus on what matters and why and managers focus on how, Forbes Contributor George Bradt said in his article, “The Fundamental Difference Between Leading and Managing.”
“The best leaders lead and let others manage; the best managers understand their leader’s vision and work with their teams to achieve it,” Kerr agreed. “Your [organization] needs people with both kinds of skills and aptitudes to secure enduring success.”