Distinguishing Between Management & Leadership

I just read this piece in the New York Times, pointing out how you can be a great leader, without being a great manager.  I immediately identified with it, and thought some of you might too.

My whole life, I’ve used my platform as an social entrepreneur to try to inspire people.  But truth be known, I’m a lousy manager.  I hate telling the same people on a daily basis what to do, how to do it, giving them constant feedback and deadlines and making them accountable.  In consulting and counseling, it’s no problem, but over long, sustained periods where you’re all working day in and day out together, it’s torture for me.

I’m what they call a “quick start”.  I dive in and just figure things out, learning and adjusting along the way. And, well, I tend to assume everyone else can do this too. Even though I do know that’s not the case.  The reality is, people who work for you want some level of direction.  They need it.  Especially when it comes to figuring out your expectations as their boss.   How have I survived all this time?  By hiring great managers.  That’s always been the key for me.  And I’ve been lucky enough to work with two or three phenomenal ones along the way. (Josh Hoppes, Julie Joncas, and Jennifer Iannolo will always be at the top of my list.)

It’s an interesting topic – this distinction between leadership and management.  I also think it’s endlessly interesting to explore the nuances between what we like and are good at, compared to what we’re completely challenged by.  Sometimes the differences are so subtle, but they can impact whether we stay in a field or company, or turn our back on it entirely.  This kind of introspection isn’t always pretty, but the more self aware we are, and active in sculpting our work to fit our own unique styles, the happier and more successful we have the chance become.  Easier said than done, yes.  But worth the effort for sure.

In this article, Tim Bucher, a big corp executive from Dell, Microsoft and Apple, turned entrepreneur, talks about leadership as a “focus on the broader context”.   He says he now likes smaller companies because you can “violate company policy a little easier than you can at large corporations to maybe help someone, maybe even giving them $1,000 to take care of some financial emergency. And when you do the right thing, you usually have an employee for life. They’re very motivated to work for you and work for the company, and I think the output is just tremendous compared to whatever the expense was.”

It certainly made me think.  I agree with Tim on this point and a few others in the article.  And I’m happy to be reminded that I can work around my weaknesses too.