Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Leading Beats Managing

I was doing my morning internet peruse and hit upon a great blog entry over at Akkam's Razor.  I read all the stuff there, and while usually it's a gathering of links that are of interest to rzklkng, the log creator, when he does a full post, it's always worth a read.

Today's post is about the distinction between leading and managing.  While this may seem like word play, it's a huge difference.  The difference is something that I try to stay conscious of in my day-to-day work with my team, as well as when I am working on longer-term projects. 

rzlkng hits the nail pretty well on the head:

"My personal mantra has always been that managing and leading are two separate things that are not mutually exclusive.
Narrowly defined, managing is about policies, procedures, and the allocation of scarce resources. ... Leadership is about opportunity by winning hearts and minds and motivating your team."

You can see from my bio that I state right up front that I lead.  There are parts of my job that involve management, but those parts are hard and boring, so I delegate them as much as I can.   Seriously, I get paid to develop our goals for the year, and then figure out how to get the most out of the 15 or so folks who work for me and to develop the planning and procedures to accomplish them.  having me filling out forms and crap like that is not an efficient use of organizational resources.

That means there is some nitty gritty now and then, but mostly my job is about providing folks the resources and support they need to do their jobs and protecting them from the BS that would interfere with that.  I differ a bit with rzlkng in that I think that finding and allocating resources is part of leadership.  Motivation, mentoring and development are larger parts, but resources are needed to do those things.

I am not saying that i am above it all.  I'm just saying that the best managers are the people who do it as their primary job most of the day.  They handle things.  The make operations run.  They are the gears in the machine.  My job is make sure that sand doesn't get in the gears and to figure out what we're going to do with all this organizational efficiency. 

I think the most important part of leadership though is respecting the work that people do and making sure that they know its value to you entire organization.  Some days it's hard to see the forest for the trees, but you've got to make sure that your people know that what they do is important and so are they.


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