Leadership vs. Management

Leadership has fallen into everyday terminology. There is a multi billion dollar market in training people to be leaders. I’ve noticed in conversations and in appraisals aspirations to leadership. Leadership is generally seen to be a “good thing”

When I ask people what do you want to lead, and why? I often get a bemused response. ” I just want to be a leader!”

I think we’ve allowed people to separate management and leadership, and that somehow the latter is more important than the former. I suggest it isn’t. Management is a skilled function, in pursuit of clearly defined ends. It is not woolly, or even questioning. It gets stuff done. On time. To Budget.

The stuff to be done is the responsibility of leadership. Leadership is tough. It is a service industry. It is about communicating clearly what you want to those you are responsible for, and protecting them whilst they do it.

It wrestles with uncertainty. It sticks its head over the parapet looking for what needs to happen. It is woolier than Shaun the sheep and full of wicked questions – questions that change each time you address them.

Why would anybody want to be a leader?

To do stuff that matters. To be accountable to ourselves for that. To make something happen that wouldn’t happen without us. That’s important enough to risk failure and ridicule for because what needs to be achieved is that important.

Management is full of tools and templates, metrics, case studies and best practice. Decisions are defensible and rational. Failure can be rationalised.

Leadership is often soggy. Intuition, Instinct, Hope, Fear. Nothing to fall back on but ourselves in the moment of decision, and doing it anyway.

Status doesn’t arrive with the addition of “Leader” to our business card. It is earned from taking the personal risk for something important – whether in the end we succeed or fail, because people recognise the purpose was worthwhile.

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