Leadership and management are two terms that are often mistakenly considered synonymous. Ideally, they should be, but too often managers are pushing employees rather than leading and that seems to be a contributing factor to the great resignation taking place right now. Employees are tired of being over worked and undervalued while their input is ignored and contributions unnoticed. Its time to reevaluate the way we view management. A manager should be a leader, but what does it mean to be a leader?
What is Leadership?
The precise definition of leadership has evolved and is ever changing, but one core element has always remained and that is followers. Followers are the cornerstone of leadership because without employees or followers there is nothing to lead and given the importance of followers its apparent servanthood cannot be excluded from the requirements of leading. In fact, servanthood is such a great aspect of true leadership, that being a leader does not require a formal title, because it is focused on developing and working toward common goals and edifying the others in the process. I know that was a bit of “word soup” but let me try to clarify.
Whether or not you subscribe to any religion or faith system you can see how powerful this concept is for a leader by reviewing the life of Jesus. Whether or not you take the bible as fact, history tells us that, with no formal title he raised up an ever growing following that disrupted the course of history and continues to this day, by placing his focus on growing, teaching and caring for those he led. This can be seen in other prominent figures that had lasting world impacts such as Martin Luther King, or Mahatma Gandhi. Leadership can be summarized as the ability to command respect regardless of your position.
Management is essentially an authority role. Managers can make decisions, give direction and set goals and, while it does overlap leadership in a lot of ways, the most important functions of management are much more bureaucratic than leadership oriented, such as planning, organizing, staffing and delegating. All these are necessary and keep the business going and moving forward but being a manager without being a leader is like running a car with too little oil. Sure, it works for now, but damage is being done and eventually things are going to break.
Exclusion or Inclusion
Leadership without management brings to mind a scene from the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, in which the character Forrest begins running for “no particular reason at all” and finds himself the leader of a substantial following who, when he finally stops, wait in anxious anticipation of the inspiration and direction they are sure to receive from him, only to be met with “I’m kinda tired, I think I’ll go home now”. Despite their contrast, leadership and management serve similar purposes as two crucial parts to a whole functioning system. A business or other organization may survive but it cannot reach its fullest potential with one and not the other.
The necessity of both competent management and leadership lies in the nature of both. Leadership has a strong connection with ethics, as it is concerned with guiding and edifying followers in pursuit of a mission, while management is not governed by ethics, but rather by goals and outcomes. An example of this can be seen if you look at the Enron scandal. This was a business which was managed well, but lacked ethical leadership. It can be argued that the lack of proper ethics caused the fall of the company, cost around 14,000 people their jobs and affected countless others. Of course, the business did fail, it can be argued that its impact was only so far reaching due to very skilled management. Leadership alone lacks structure to build a thriving organization. In contrast, without the order and stability of management a leader can achieve very little.
What’s the Point?
At the end of it all, every business has managers, but not all businesses have managers who are effective leaders. Learning how to coach, encourage, and pour into the knowledge, skills, and abilities of your team is something will ultimately give your business a competitive advantage. When a team believes in the leadership of their organization, they are willing to go miles beyond what is required of them in order to be a part of something they can be proud of. In a time where “The Great Resignation” is upon us, businesses need leaders more than ever, and employees need to be engaged and built up rather than pushed around.