Leadership versus management won’t go away

This just does not go away. Leadership versus management. It has been around forever and looks like it will be around for years to come.  

Why do I say that? Because you can quickly find out what people are searching on Google. Go to answerthepublic.com, and you can put in a word and find out what the most common searches for that word are. If you go to that site (like I do regularly, to get content ideas), and search for leadership, most of the searches are around leadership versus management.  

And I get it. I understand that leaders struggle with the difference between the two. I get that it is still something that comes up in conversation. I get that there is still some thinking to do around leading and managing. Because it is a big topic.  

It is a big topic because leaders still need guidance around these two. Leaders struggle to know what their priorities really are. Is it my hoomanz, or is it profit, or process. Or is it something else. 

Years ago, I started writing about this topic, and again as I was sitting down to write more content, and I checked in with answerthepublic.com, and it is still commonly searched, I thought I’d address it again. 

Here are my thoughts on leadership versus management. 

1. Yes, they are two separate things 

Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute to the organisation’s success. Management is responsible for controlling an organisation, a group, or a set of entities to achieve a particular objective” (Credit: Simplilearn). 

At its simplest, leadership is about people. Management is about process.  

And they are both important.  

They are separate, but they are both required. 

If you can get your head around the fact that you actually have to do both of these, that is a good start. Upgrade your mindset, and know that your people are your priority, but at the same time, leaders have responsibilities, they have reports, they have procedures to comply with.  

When I hear leaders say to me that life would be easier if they didn’t have people in their teams, and that they just want to manage robots (yes this happens), I know that they are management focused, not leadership focused.  

For me (someone who finds a way to simplify things), it is about where you put your energy when you have to make a priority decision. When you have got someone in your team that needs your help, at the same time you have got your monthly report to write for the CEO. These are the times (that leaders face often) that matter. And these are the moments when you don’t have to tell your team what your priorities are, your behaviour will tell them. 

Yes, leadership and management are different. Yes, there will be time that you have you choose between the two. In those moments, choose leadership. 

2. Yes, you can combine them 

If you have read any of my content over the last 5 or 10 years, or if you have ever been in a coaching session with me, or if you have heard me speak on a stage about leadership, you will know that my biggest piece of advice around leadership versus management is to combine the two.  

Yes, combine the two. With systems leadership. Put the systems (process) and leadership (people) together in a way that you can’t get it wrong. 

But what is systems leadership? 

In short, systems leadership is about putting systems around all of the people things you need to do. 

The systems leadership process is about being very clear on all of your people activities (visits, one on ones, team meetings, etc). Once you have got this list complete. Put them all into your calendar, so that you don’t miss them. Then, the big thing is to – never reschedule them (rescheduling your people priorities is the cardinal sin of leadership, in my opinion). 

Yes, leadership and management can be combined. Yes, you can put them together – and the better you do this one, the less you will need to make priority decisions about one or the other, because you are always on top of your leadership. If you are on top of your leadership, the management seems to take care of itself. 

3. Yes, it is simple, not easy 

Let’s continue the systems leadership theme for a moment and see how we can further put some process around your people priorities. 

The other thing that is really helping the leaders that I work with and coach, is a RACI matrix. That is, who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, in relation to all of the tasks of the team and team members. 

The better you can really dial in the RACI matrix and process, the better off your leadership will be. Most organisations don’t nail the RACI process, they overcomplicate it, and it doesn’t work, and doesn’t get followed. The way to get it right is to only ever do a RACI matrix for one person, or for one team. There should only ever be one name or team name on a RACI. Not a department, not an organisation. KISS principle.  

Yes, it is simple, I can write these words in 30 minutes, but it takes years to build leadership competency. With the management tools that I have listed here, your will find that your leadership skills improve significantly! 

In summary, leadership versus management is still an ‘intriguing’ type of concept. It is the most searched topic around leadership, because it is important. And it is not going away. Yes, both are important. Yes, you can separate both of them. Yes, if you get your systems right, your leadership will improve! 

What has your experience been? 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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