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The fundamental differences between leadership and management

March 13, 2017
Borderless Leadership

Visionary leadership combined with great management achieves the best results. Seems obvious right? Then why do so many companies get it wrong, especially during times of needed change?

There are fundamental differences between leadership and management that apply to any team or organization, but the focus of this article is to explore the strengths of each as they apply to leading organizational change.

Generally speaking, management is a set of systems and processes designed for organizing, budgeting, staffing and problem solving to achieve the desired results of an organization. Leadership defines the vision, mission and what the “win” looks like in the future. It inspires the team to embody the beliefs and behaviors necessary to take the actions needed to achieve those results.

The most successful transformations occur when strong, visionary leadership converges with great management. Both are required to define a clear path, plan accordingly and see the mission plan through to fulfillment.

All organizations — large and small — face the need for change now more than ever. And not in a reactive manner but rather a proactive approach that is ingrained in the fabric of the organization’s culture. I previously wrote an article about developing and properly communicating a powerful change vision. The communication of the vision never ends during the change process and is woven into every aspect of what the leaders and managers do.

But it is important to note the differences in leadership and management, as they relate to the fundamental roles the transformation task force must take on. A transformation task force in this sense is the guiding body developed to lead a company through its transformation. This team must include senior leaders, front-line managers and other key team members that are well respected in their given fields of expertise.

Most organizations still focus on what is really management development, not true leadership development — although you see it called that all the time. Individuals can, of course, embody qualities of both disciplines, but in my experience, it seems to be rare that you have a great visionary leader who is also an effective manager, and vise versa.

Regardless, all aspects of a powerful change vision must be both led and managed for a successful outcome. Here, let’s take a look at the fundamental differences between leadership and management as they apply to organizational change.

The Principles Of Leading Change

Organizational transformation, regardless of how complex or significant, has to start at the top.

Defining And Articulating The Vision

I have identified six principles for communicating a powerful change vision, which include: keeping the messaging simple and authentic, utilizing multiple channels, being repetitive, ensuring behaviors are consistent with the vision, and gathering feedback along the way.

The vision is what the team can connect with. Visualization of that winning result helps everyone develop a shared sense of purpose and get behind the actions — and even sacrifices — that will be needed to succeed.

Aligning The Team With The Vision

Getting the team aligned with the vision starts with spending the appropriate time and energy developing the right vision. Not just change for the sake of change but true transformative actions that will improve the company and add value to the customers, employees and shareholders.

Alignment starts at the top. Senior leaders must first make sure they are truly aligned so that their communications and behaviors are authentic and truly embody the vision for change — the old lead-by-example model. Seems simple, but companies get this wrong all the time. The leaders must first believe in the mission before the front-line troops can connect with the cause.

Keeping The Team Motivated And Inspired

Organizational transformations can take a long time. One of the core roles of leaders is to establish and plan for quick wins, which will accomplish several things.

First, quick wins give the team something tangible that proves their sacrifices are driving the change initiatives forward.

Second, quick wins take the wind out of the sails of the naysayers — who can exist at any level of the company, from the board of directors to the front-line troops.

Third, quick wins keep the team motivated and inspired, which is great medicine for the battlefield fatigue they will experience during the transformation process.

The Principles Of Managing Change

Everything mentioned above is imperative to any successful transformation, but it can’t be accomplished without diligent management. It’s management’s role to put the plans into action and measure the progress from start to finish.

Putting The Mission Plan Into Action

As mentioned above, the transformation task force should include a combination of influential leaders and managers from various levels of the organization. And once they have the mission plan established, it’s largely the responsibility of management to establish the timelines and milestones needed to stay on track.

This is also where management steps in to make sure those quick wins collectively defined by the transformation task force actually happen.

Organizing, Budgeting, And Staffing

A vision is only as good as the development of the new systems, processes and structures needed to support it. This is the painful — and often less exhilarating — part of the transformation process. Comfort zones are demolished and everyone is asked to learn the behaviors needed for the “new way of doing things.”

New budget plans must be developed and staffing requirements are usually affected by organizational change. The role of management is to work closely with the finance team to ensure that budgeting and staffing also fit within the parameters of the vision.

Maintaining Control And Navigating Obstacles

One of my favorite quotes that applies to both combat and business — especially during times of change — is: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The original transformation plan will come into conflict and adjustments will need to be made.

Management must foresee these needs and act accordingly, while the leadership team continues to communicate the ultimate vision and what winning is going to look like.

The Power Of Great Leadership And Management Combined

When a company has great visionary leadership but poor management capability, the transformation will only get so far. When the opposite is true, the vision will not be powerful, or even worse, will be totally flawed. Or it will never develop in the first place. With great leadership but marginal management, the change effort can make some significant gains but will eventually slow. Where the magic happens is when great leadership intersects with solid management. Change is messy and it’s never perfect. It usually takes longer and has a greater cost–hard and soft–than is originally anticipated. But with visionary leaders who have the best interests of the company and its culture in mind, supported by great management throughout the company, winning results are likely to happen.

By Brent Gleeson

Source: Forbes

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