15 Jul 2021

Management and Leadership – Why we need both

Management. Leadership. Though these two terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same at all. Equating management with leadership – so what? Knowing the differences could set your course toward growth and success, whether personal, professional, or organizational. A disclaimer: Below are a few observations and suggestions. The further from the problem, the easier it is to give advice, and I don’t see any of you in my office.

“Managers” and “leaders” are often defined as “a person to whom others report.” But volumes have been written about the differences between these two words. Dan McCarthy of Compass East summarized it well: “Organizations require great leadership and great management. Neither management nor leadership is a hereditary trait; both must be learned and developed over time.” And Peter Drucker was even more succinct: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Leadership is an invaluable trait. Though it’s important to note that while 83% of enterprises believe it’s important to develop leaders at all levels in a company, 69% of Millennials believe there’s a lack of leadership development in the workplace (GoRemotely). This is even more important to recognize as Millennials have been the largest generation in the US (United States) labor force since 2016 (PewReserch).

Let’s break the leader versus manager differences down further:

  • Leaders are often seen as risk takers while managers are seen as risk minimizers.
  • Leaders have a “visionary” aim: “Of all the mountains to climb, our business shall climb that one!” Managers have an organizational aim: “Okay, to get to the top of that mountain, we need this and that and this and this…
  • Leaders see opportunities. Managers catch problems.
  • Leaders may have a reputation as “rule breakers.” Remember Captain Kirk’s response in Star Trek when asked how it was that he was the only one who passed the Kobayashi Maru test? His response was classic: “I cheated.” On the other side, a manager’s job is to keep order.
  • Leaders are often seen as inspirational and motivators. Managers are often seen as monitors of progress, trainers and teachers.

“Leaders” are often defined as: investing in people (personnel recruitment, hiring & firing, individual goal setting, training & coaching, creating a positive environment, involvement in your team’s individuals’ growth). “Managers” are often defined as investing in company infrastructure or systems (system creation, repair or revamp, organization goal setting, inventory management, environmental focus, organization’s growth).

Many great companies have crumbled with vision-less leadership while management exceled, and vice versa with strong leadership but frail management. But when leadership and management work together in strength – Wow! D-Day, 1944 is an example. The Allied leaders (generals) formulated the plan to land at the lesser-defended Normandy beach and the Allied managers (staff sergeants, quartermasters, etc.) strategized to timely deliver the troops, vehicles, and supplies to Normandy. Without this coordination, historians believe the war may have dragged on for at least another year and millions more people would have died.

Did you know, 84% of organizations predict a shortfall of leaders in the next 5 years, but only 5% have fully implemented leadership development at all levels? (InfoProLearning)

It’s not always easy to balance effective leadership and management. Stewart Butterfield, founder of Flicker and Slack, admitted that leadership was sometimes easier because he “can tell people a story they can believe in and get behind…But I’ve always said I am a terrible manager because I am no good at giving feedback.”  Many of us can relate to that because giving “corrective” feedback isn’t always fun.

Now let’s go back to 5th grade where we all had a teacher who taught us about famous people in history. That teacher was Miss Loffbaum for me. Miss Loffbaum taught us about great leaders. She never taught about any great managers. And yet, rarely today do you see “Leader” on a business card. Instead, you see the title, “Manager.” In today’s competitive business climate, leadership and management must intersect if an organization is to grow.

This is where soft skills can make a real impact. According to an article titled 54 Key Leadership Statistics in 2021, the top four soft skills every leader should develop are empathy, humility, self-awareness, and the ability to listen (FinancesOnline).

That intersection of leadership and management is worth a new title:


Why shepherd? The shepherd leads, but also must manage the flock by guiding them to food, water and protection from predators. The shepherd has the best qualities of both a leader and a manager.

But wait, there’s more!

The shepherd is one who others want to emulate because the shepherd shows the highest standards of character and ethics. Shepherds strive for excellence not perfection (because perfection cannot be reached). They help others understand the mission, create the systems and develop the strategy to carry out the mission, ensure correct execution of the strategy, and celebrate the wins with the team. They encourage the team to use 3 letter assessment words (“how,” “why”) and every now and then, 4 and 2 letter words (“what if”). They work tirelessly to make sure the ship doesn’t hit the iceberg, but if it does, the shepherd’s the last one off the ship after ensuring everyone else is out safely. And shepherds are great at fostering a “We” culture of fun and respect.

Though the distinctions between managers and leaders are clear when we write them down, it’s also possible to be great, or not so great, at both. A behavioral assessment tool is an ideal way for organizations to assess their leadership/management talent and build on those innate strengths and challenges. Create a culture of leadership and develop the best shepherds using personality data based on individual preferences.

“Shepherd” – the best of both leadership and management rolled into one. What’s on your business card? Changing your title to “shepherd” and living it out may not be a “baaaaaaad” idea!

This blog was originally published on The Omnia Group website.

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