When should you Lead? When should you Manage?

Leaders - Lao Tzu

I’ve been doing a lot more research on the above subject recently, it’s been fascinating.

In all the coaching work I do with managers and leaders we nearly always have a very specific conversation about the difference between Leadership & Management.  A good leader needs to be able to manage, AND lead. To succeed as Lao Tzu describes takes a combination of both. But how do you do it?

I’ve tried to help by pointing at various books (Good to Great by Jim Collins for example) which in a previous blog I’ve described – the Level 5 Leader – in order to help define what leadership is all about. Rosalinde Torres does a great Ted Talk about what makes a great leader.

She points to 3 key features of leaders:

  • Great leaders are not head-down. They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.
  • Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people that are thinking differently than you are. This allows them to do the above.
  • Great leaders dare to be different. They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it. And one of the leaders shared with her the fact that the most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or just plain stupid.

Understanding these, she says, will determine your effectiveness as a 21st-century leader.

However, I’ve found these are still just a little wide of the mark for those leaders or managers who are trying to make a difference in their day to day work. What we find in our sessions is the need for a framework they can use to identify the DIFFERENCE – i.e. when they’re doing it ‘right’. That is, when to lead or when to manage, and something to help them decide when they should use the different styles. By clearly laying out the difference between the two, the choice to Lead or to Manage is made easier.

I found an answer with an old master, John Kotter which I summarised in the diagram below. A number of my coachees have it laminated and taped up in their office!



How does this work for you in your day to day management vs leadership challenge?