[By Richard Male, Regis Nonprofit Affiliate Faculty member.] I had an opportunity this past week to work with a room of supervisors, all public sector employees, in a workshop-style review of leadership versus management. Most of them–indeed, most all of us–are called upon to fulfill both roles in the course of a day. What happens when you fail to appreciate the critical difference between the two, or you confuse one role for the other? How do you know which approach is the fit in a given moment, and what are the characteristics of each mode?
As much as I love to teach leadership and strategic organizational development, I also appreciate the essential value of strong, focused management. Although I often decry that our sector has too many tactitions and too few visionaries, I know that no organization can survive without deep assets in both realms. I have also come to respect that most people operate naturally in one mode, so that learning to move swiftly and appropriately between modes when the situation warrants it is often a lifelong journey.
Here’s a quick refresher that may help you check in on your balance between the dual roles:
1. Management produces order and consistency. It is the skill of exercising executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of a group, managing resources and monitoring essential systems, all within the established culture of the organization. Leadership is the art of inspiring and motivating people forward; done well, it produces change and movement, all focused on creating or changing culture rather than living within it.
2. A manager makes the rules. An effective leader sometimes breaks them in the name of a broader mission.
3. A manager seeks to avoid conflict so that process and productivity are not interrupted. A leader sees conflict as an opportunity to solve problems.
4. Managers are skilled at reacting to circumstances and applying known systems toward a solution; they seek to minimize risk. Leaders are inherently more proactive, with an eye on the horizon, and setting a new course when possible; they are more willing to take risk for a broader purpose of improvement and innovation.
5. Managers act from the head, using data and logic, and exercise formal authority. They ask and answer the questions of “How” and “When.” Leaders act from the heart, more likely to exhibit charisma and articulate a vision. They ask, “Why?” (and “Why not?”).
6. A manager is typically transactional in style, and tell-assertive. A leader seeks to be transformational in style, and ask-assertive.
7. A manager values control and results. A leader values passion and achievement.
8. Managers give us the critical tools of planning and budgeting, setting agendas, setting timetables, fostering accountability, and allocating resources. Leaders clarify the big picture, setting strategies and establishing direction.
9. In times of crisis, a manager seeks to identify cause or blame, and a leader is more likely to take the blame. A manager may be needed to take corrective/negative action, and a leader moves to motivate and inspire toward future positive action.
10. A strong manager is efficient, effective and generally focused from the center of the organization, while a strong leader is usually operating on the “edge” or on the ledge.
Which mode is your default, and which is your growth challenge? What signals in your life and work help you identify how and when to shift between modes–and are you truly watching for these signals? Please comment below and share your thoughts.
Reprinted with permission from Richard Male and Associates, www.richardmale.com, 303-355-2919.
Richard Male is an Affiliate Faculty member of the Global Leadership in Nonprofit program at Regis University with over 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector as a leader and teacher. He founded Richard Male Associates in 2001 to work with nonprofits throughout the United States and internationally, helping small to mid-sized organizations with organizational development, leadership and management issues, fundraising and financial management and public policy opportunities.