Leading vs. Managing… At War or Peace?

You hear the phrase management versus leadership all the time. Just the term “versus” gives us a feeling that the two are at war with each other. Yet, realistically the two cannot live without each other! We must have both leadership and management skill sets, as a person or on the team.

Let me use my home life to illustrate my point. As parents, Keven and I lead our children by being good examples and living out what we preach. We can’t say one thing then go do the other. We coach the kids on issues that come about through their different seasons of growth. We discipline when needed so they respect and understand that they are accountable as a family member. We love our kids, and we express it openly both verbally and in how we care, protect and provide for them. Most times we put the kids’ schedules and needs before our own needs. We explain the why behind our decisions so as they grow and leave the house, they will make good decisions on their own. We’re not perfect parents, but we honor and respect the awesome responsibility of leading.

However, as parents we are also family members and have management responsibilities. We have to manage our finances, our schedules, and our careers. We manage the upkeep of our assets like our cars, house, and toys. We manage our time, and we manage what we want to eat and what we will watch on TV. We also manage our health and fitness level.

Unfortunately, sometimes our management responsibilities compete with leading our children. We miss a ball game because we didn’t manage our schedule well. We cut short a heart-to-heart discussion because of having to get to the store before it closes. This is when managing and leading collide, and it’s no different at the office.

Just replace the home example with the office and our teammates. The things we manage often get in the way of leading our teammates AND that’s acceptable as long as it isn’t consistent! When our managing consistently takes priority over our leading, we lose focus of leading the people and our operational administrative duties take over.

So how do we keep the balance between our leading and managing responsibilities? Here are four tips to get you started in the right direction.

Make a list.

Draw two columns on a sheet of paper. Title one column “Leading” and the other “Managing”. Think about everything you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis that takes up a respectable amount of time and write those items in the column where they belong, managing or leading.

Prioritize your leading.

If you truly want to become a good leader, you will have to prioritize your leader actions. Be available, but also manage your calendar so those you lead are on it weekly or biweekly for quality one-on-ones. Obviously, you can’t leave your management duties undone, but when they don’t have to be completed, let them follow your leadership time.

Manage after hours.

Well, if you haven’t yet noticed, leading is not an 8-to-5 job. However, the prime time to lead is when the team is present. So make use of your time when you are together. Look at your leading list and execute on those during the day. Many of the items on your managing list can be done any time, including after hours.

Prepare to sacrifice.

If you are called to lead, then you recognize and accept that it will demand a sacrifice in the things that you manage both professionally and personally. However, those called to lead consider this sacrifice as an investment in the lives of others and in the sustained growth and prosperity for the companies they serve. For those called to lead, this is very fulfilling.

So are your management and leadership duties at war with each other? If so, don’t expect a quick fix for peace, but do start taking steps in that direction. Lead the people; manage the tasks.


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