Chris Henderson asked:
We all have leadership roles in life. Most of us have multiple roles where we need to set a direction and mobilize people towards it – both at work and outside.
I am lucky enough to have met a few born leaders. Of the thousands of people I have met in my life, I can count those who were born great leaders on the fingers of one hand. For the rest of us leadership is something that we have to learn if we want to become good at it.
Most of us are so occupied by the hurly burly of day to day existence that we rarely find time to look at the bigger picture to plan for more than the next few months, or to think about what lies behind the resistance that we so often seem to encounter in others and which frustrates us in achieving what we are trying to do.
How many of us can honestly say that we are sufficiently clear about where we are trying to get to (personally or professionally) or sufficiently skillful at understanding and motivating the others who we want to take to that destination? Don’t we all need to?
So what’s the difference between managing and leading?
I have read lots of books on leadership and been lucky enough to hear many of the gurus speak about it. Whilst they all have something to add to the subject, I think that consultants and academics make it much more complicated than it needs to be.
It seems to me that the difference between the management and leadership is pretty simple.
Management is fundamentally about doing the things which maintain and evolve the continuing operation of an organisation. It is concerned primarily with processes for the management of people and money.
For money the main processes include activities like budgeting, targeting and monitoring and for people they include things like performance management, absence management, discipline and grievance, recruitment etc.
Best practice exists for most processes and so they are best learned through training followed by practice and on the job support. You can be a better manager by simply learning to do things the ‘right’ way.
Leadership is concerned almost exclusively with just two things; setting direction and mobilizing people towards it. As such it builds on the continuing operation of an organisation and helps it to change.
These changes are needed for many reasons and take many forms which is why formulas or processes are generally of less help. Instead, leadership is dependent on all sorts of personal qualities like moral courage, vision, discipline and the ability to build relationships and to motivate people.
There are as many different leadership styles as there are leaders – there is no ‘right’ way. Every leadership situation is also different. Because of this leadership is best learned through supporting people to better understand and develop their own style in the context of their own challenges. The best way to develop it, therefore, is ‘on the job’ learning and the best way to accelerate this is through coaching.
So how could I get better at leading? We are all developing as leaders all the time and we do it mainly through trial and error. What speeds this process up (and reduces the pain!) is the support of key people around us. These are the people who care enough about us to ‘tell us how it really is’ and whose opinions we value enough to listen.
It’s easy to spot your leadership supporters. They are the ones who want you to become a more complete version of yourself rather than better copies of them!
Some of us are fortunate enough to have colleagues, friends and family who have the skill and patience to listen to us, help us see what we are missing, expand our options and make our own decisions. Increasingly though, the complexity of the challenges facing leaders in organisations, and the lack of skilled support available to them, are causing them to turn to expert leadership coaches.
Some ideas to take forward… Make yourself some time to reflect on where you are trying to get to.
* What is the legacy you want to leave behind in your current role?
* What contribution do you want to make to your family and friends?
* What is the job you want after the next one? (and how do this one and the next one help you get there?)
* Give some thought to who are your leadership supporters.
* Do they know that you see them this way?
* How can you get more of their support?
* What can you do in return?
If you need some support with these questions or about coaching, then the best way to begin is with a conversation. We don’t believe in a ‘hard sell’ and often find that people get value out of the exploratory discussion – whether or not we go on to work together.
Good luck with your leadership challenges.