As a training and development professional, you probably have been
asked this question more than once: What is the difference between
management and leadership?
My perspective on this might differ from yours or from what you
have heard or read in leadership books. First, I don't believe that
management and leadership are different positions or jobs. Many
companies distinguish managers and leaders based on their pecking
order in the organization. This seems like nonsense to me because
we can see and experience leadership at all levels within an
organization. Some people believe that leadership is something you
do when you move beyond management--a set of tasks that are somehow
higher in level--and believe it takes more skill to lead than to
manage. I don't agree. People with all ranges of education and
sophistication demonstrate powerful leadership.
So what is the difference, then, between leading and managing?
Management is framed by a set of methods and practices--a
regimen--that allow us to run a business or a piece of the
business. Management is a job. Leadership is a way we do our jobs.
Courage as leadership
When we look back on the careers of those we admire, we often
remember moments of leadership--those times when he said or did
something that became a catalyst for positive change.
Imagine four peer managers meeting to discuss the progress of a
major project. Having update meetings is, of course, one task of
management. Let's say that during the meeting one manager
demonstrates courage and takes the initiative to openly discuss
concerns that the others are too chicken to bring up. At her
prompting, the discussion opens up, and important concerns are
defined and addressed. The pink elephant in the corner of the room
is outed! The discussion leaves the group questioning whether the
project is still viable or a good use of time and resources. During
that display of courage - in that single moment - this manager
Managers ought to be managers all the time and show leadership when
it's needed. This is the case with all jobs. If you are a
controller, you ought to be a great controller all the time and
demonstrate leadership when needed. If you are a front-line worker
on an assembly line, you ought to be a great screw gun operator all
the time and lead when necessary. And if you are a trainer, you
ought to be a great trainer all the time and a leader when doing so
will make a positive difference.
Effects on the training function
Some of you might disagree with my definition of leadership, but
let's assume that you agree for a moment. Look through this lens
with me and re-imagine the training function. How do we cultivate
and develop leadership in the workplace? How do we engage managers
and other employees such that leadership grows? What can we do to
increase the number and quality of leadership moments?
Leadership training needs to focus on helping employees:
- act with courage
- recognize potential leadership moments
- distinguish and define management and leadership
- reinforce and appreciate leadership at all levels
- increase ownership of leading when leadership is needed.
These actions might seem fuzzy and hard to train, but imagine how
the workplace would look and feel if all of your managers (up
through executive management) improved in these areas. What if your
middle and senior managers developed a deeper understanding that
leadership is not a destination, or a position, but an opportunity,
privilege, and responsibility? This shift in mindset would produce
more and better leadership moments.
As trainers we define learning objectives and practice our craft
using tried and true educational principles. To develop leadership
capabilities we must provide clear expectations, positive role
models, practical development, opportunities for practice, and
consistent reinforcement of the desired behaviors. Trainers can and
should be positive role models for leadership, and we can
facilitate the development of leadership by infusing our programs
with elements and messages that reinforce it.
Even if you do not agree with my definition of leadership versus
management, there is no downside to taking a look at your training
programs and ensuring they build and reinforce courage,
independence, and ownership for improving the business. Start by
asking yourself this question, "Are participants more likely to
demonstrate leadership after attending this course?"
2007 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.