I bet that everyone reading this is a fan of buying the latest bestsellers on leadership. And I bet that most of you actually read parts, if not all of these tomes. I am drawn to each new title and I am nearly always inspired by what I read about leaders and how they see and do things differently.
How many of you buy books about management? I can't think of a "management" bestseller in recent years, although I religiously read Harvard Business Review and I get plenty of ideas from each issue.
I receive daily alerts on a variety of topics. Today's, from the Online Spin Blog by Jason Heller, had the most succinct operating definition of leadership v. management I've seen in years.
In most organizations, there are those who assume leadership roles and others who assume management roles. It’s generally accepted that finding individuals with exceptional skills in both leadership and management is a rarity.
Leadership: Provides the vision, inspiration, and guidance that allow managers, and their teams, to accomplish the tasks that achieve the goals of the organization.
Management: Ensures that the human, technological and financial resources are being applied optimally to achieve effective workflow and output. Essentially — executing the vision, managing deadlines and getting things done.
Frankly, this is the most appealing definition of management I've ever seen. "Management" is often the red-headed stepchild of "leadership." The have-nots to leadership's haves. But Heller's definition here speaks of brilliant execution, and the effective and holistic organization of resources and tools. As employers, we desperately need these extreme executers – and we all want more of them.
Heller continues by asking, "Which skew are you?" He is speaking in the context of an agency/organization relationship, but I think the question is equally, if not more relevant to us without that orientation.
Consider your law firm and ponder this statement from Heller:
In performing organizational assessments, one of the challenges that we consistently encounter is that companies tend to skew towards one end of the spectrum or another. The lack of one of these core traits will inevitably lead to some degree of breakdown . . .
Leadership-skewed organizations have great vision but bad execution, including poor communication, limited briefs and processes and a lack of tactical planning required to make the rubber meet the road, so to speak. Leadership-skewed organizations also tend to be under-resourced from this disconnect. It’s like drawing a multi-directional map without realizing the starting point of the journey.
Management-skewed organizations often fail to see the bigger picture and can be penny-wise and pound-foolish in defending the status quo. This includes a lack of strategic planning, with principals continuing processes and programs because “that’s how things are done around here.” (See “The Most Dangerous Phrase in Marketing”). It’s like navigating with a map that’s missing some new and improved roads.
The bottom line is, we all need to be both – and that's not just the CMOs, managing partners and CFOs. It means that the marketing coordinator needs arrows from both the leader and manager quiver, as does the associate who hopes to be partner, and the partner who hopes to increase his business development success. A person with only one of these disciplines will never be as strong or successful as a professional that is proficient at both.
Here is a checklist from Heller's post that is a mix of both leadership and management qualities. It's a good to-do list for all of us.
- Willingness to take complete accountability
- Treating partners and staff with respect
- Challenging the status quo and inspiring innovation
- Improving culture
- Maximizing the impact of technology on output
- Proactively anticipating and solving problems
- Being responsive to consumers and the market
- Being responsive to employees
- Developing systems, processes, and efficiencies in workflow
- Managing multiple projects simultaneously
- Doing more with less when necessary
- Being available (proverbially) 24/7 in today’s connected world
(Jason Heller is the CEO of Agiliti, a consulting firm focused on digital marketing operations management.)