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Managing vs. leading: Different traits yet both are crucial

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We are working with an entrepreneur who is challenging his business colleagues to double the revenue of their highly successful service business. That might seem like a pretty straightforward proposition.

For those of you who have been there, you recognize it is not only challenging, but it is also putting your existing business on the line; as they say, "you are betting the farm." Why? Well it involves more than growing your customer base or increasing your level of business with current customers; it is accepting that what it took to get to where you are is not what you need to go forward.

Such a situation is a great opportunity to explore the realities of managing your business versus leading it. For those of you who think managing and leading are synonyms, let's consider what is involved.

Typically when an entrepreneur is bringing something new to the marketplace, a team of champions has a common idea and shares an understanding of what the future could look like. Leadership is about challenging the current thinking about what is possible and creating a shared vision of the future.

There has to be some general plan of what
is required to make that idea a reality. You have to be able to define milestones that will move the business forward on a consistent and
steady path.

But when you are starting out to achieve something no one has ever achieved, there is no path to follow or perfect roadmap to consult. You know the endpoint, believe it can be accomplished, and you have a group of people who share in the commitment to make it happen.

All of this requires leadership. Someone has to be the innovator; someone has to be able to get others excited about this future possibility; someone has to be willing to put achieving that future ahead of their own personal wants and ego.

As you travel down that path, you will run into all kinds of adversity and naysayers, but that vision keeps you focused and able to get back up every time you get knocked down.

Our client had all that and eventually succeeded in achieving his vision. His highly successful business brought to the marketplace a new service that others saw as valuable.

He was a leader who did whatever it took and kept zigging and zagging to make it happen. There were no standards. The team involved just stayed focused on starting the new business, talking and arguing through all the challenges.

But now a new future has been defined. It will take more resources and it will take more people who share the commitment for success. All of a sudden the things that could be dealt with informally need more structure.

People want to know what is expected: what is my role, what is the plan, what is in it for me? Human nature kicks in and the dynamics have to be managed.

Individuals, including the leadership, can't just do whatever they want; they need to ensure that expectations are achieved.

Work needs to be planned and coordinated. Management is about structure and control; it is about execution and specific goals and objectives clearly aligned with that vision you are seeking to accomplish.

Management is not about the future; it is about what has to be done in the present.

Executing is based on discovering what works and then replicating it. That becomes the standard for how we do something.

Leading and managing are the same when it comes to sustaining employees by providing encouragement. We all need to hear that we are making a difference and that we are appreciated. Also, those who are in positions of responsibility have to realize they set the example for how employees are expected to behave.

Which is more important – management or leadership?

Of course both are. You can't continue to grow without being willing to change and innovate, but you can't keep people connected and engaged without some level of structure and clarity about what is needed.

The challenge for our client is to not lose his entrepreneurial spirit as he introduces the structural components described. He needs to both manage and lead as circumstances will dictate.

Donna Goss and Don Robertson are co-directors of the Northampton Community College Center for Business & Industry.

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