Small Business Transition Blog
Managing And Leading:
What’s The Difference? Why Is It Important? How Do We Make It Better?
According to both the 2014 edition of The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey (The Conference Board, 2014) and a Nielsen mail survey of 5,000 households (Adams, 2014), approximately half of US workers are satisfied with their jobs. These percentages are also reflected within the Federal sector.
Recently, using data from the over 392,000 Federal employee responses to the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the Partnership for Public Service published an analysis of the differences in perspective of Federal executives and their employees (Partnership for Public Service, 2015). This analysis showed that Senior Federal executives have a significantly higher work satisfaction and a higher commitment to their organization. Additionally, of the participants, about a third more Senior Executive Service (SES) are satisfied with their jobs and the organization for which they work compared to non-SES. Current data from the US Office of Management and Budget from 2013 and 2015 demonstrates that approximately 60.6 percent of Federal employees are satisfied with their jobs. While these are significant percentages, satisfaction can be raised through implementation of strategic actions in the workplace. Specifically, the study concludes that “leadership is the major factor of overall employee satisfaction, even for the SES” (Partnership for Public Service, p. 7).
Management and Leadership: What Are They?
There are a plethora of opinions of the subject of Management and Leadership. For each, there are hundreds of books and thousands of articles. These works provide us with strong supporting evidence, both individually and cumulatively, that these two subjects are of some considerable significance to the general human condition.
For this article, both competent leadership and competent management are assumed to be “good.” It is important to keep in mind the well-documented misuse of these attributes, and their future potential misuse, in the hands of present-day and future emotional children, narcissists, sociopaths, and fanatics of every stripe.
Additionally, in the debate over Nature versus Nurture, both are assumed to be true. The process of how and why innate human potential becomes full-bloomed, purposeful cognitive self-actualization is left to academic button-sorting. This article is focused on more practical concerns: “What are reasonable operational definitions for each skill set? How does each overlap the other? How can each best be harnessed within all of us for the common good?”
Discussion and Operational Definitions
Both leadership and management involve the consideration of direct action as applied to the greater group to which they are a member. This involves the attainment of some of the group’s commonly held goals and objectives. A person can neither lead nor manage without some sort of association and interaction with others.
Leadership and management both require the ability and the willingness to actively learn how to solve problems. The ability to successfully adjust to new approaches when old methods have proven to be no longer valid. People now must have the capacity to creatively think “outside-the-box” while simultaneously taking into account existing peer and group norms. Additionally, both formal and informal methods of passing-on group knowledge through active and firm mentoring must be used to avoid potential missteps by the less experienced and the less skilled.
These skills rely heavily on the ability to realistically plan for the future. Though in different ways, both leadership and management encompass the ability to think and perform clearly under pressure. Each demands the coveted ability to separate from a great deal of detail, often received without prior warning, that which is salient and to calmly make the right choice for action or inaction, referred to by Napoleon Bonaparte as “two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage” (Emerson, 1850).
Most importantly, this article assumes that both leadership and management are multidirectional, as opposed to the traditional assumption of “top-down.” Both leadership and management also occur counter to traditional hierarchal structure. Subordinates can influence and lead from the “bottom-up.” Peers can influence and lead along “lateral lines of communication.” Due to this, given the minimum of tacit mutual trust, any accepted member of a group may have the opportunity to manage or lead any other accepted member.
Operationally, Martin Chemers’ (2014, p. 5) definition of leadership seems to meet the tests of both conciseness and simplicity. Chemers defines leadership as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Likewise, the unattributed definition of business and organizational management is defined as the ability to “accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.”
In the case of the former, there is an implied level of mutual trust. However, in the case of the latter, there is the implication of some level of authority, which implies some defined role and a matching set of finite responsibilities. These traits are not mutually exclusive. A leader who cannot manage and a manager who cannot lead, can potentially reach adequacy, but never competency, and much less excellence.
The intersection of Management and Leadership is at the nexus of Trust, Role, and Responsibility.
Trust, Role, and Responsibility
Trust is the essential lynch-pin to both management and leadership. Without it, neither can occur. For some, this may be a new concept, as this is not what has been taught in past decades (Green, 2012).
Within any organization, individuals have roles and various responsibilities. While someone has the responsibility and power to make a particular decision, others within that same group may influence the outcome of that decision by blocking resources, successfully redefining the problem, or actively seeking influencers from inside and outside the organization. This is true for all large groups of individuals. Our inability to see the forest from the trees in how we perceive the day-to-day operation of these groups, specifically work groups, has led to a terrible waste of talent and resources.
Humans have had a prolonged preoccupation with authority-driven groups that administer. The first modern attempt to devise a rational-bureaucratic model has been influenced primarily by the writing of Max Weber’s Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft and its subsequent translation (Weber, 1947) into English, Economy and Society. While some have questioned the accuracy of the rational-bureaucratic model as an accurate depiction of how organizations and large groups truly function (Lefcowitz, 1975), it has only been recently that this more nuanced view (Hitch, 2012) has gained traction at all. Whether it is the Ndenduli of Tanzania (Gulliver, 1971), a street gang in the United States (Howell & Moore, May 2010 (No. 4)), or a President responding to a potentially apocalyptic international crisis (Allison, 1971), trust is the essential social glue that holds human associations together.
Increasingly, it is recognized that a flatter, more energetic, and more agile form of management and leadership is required for organizations of all types to respond to economic and social challenges. This is especially true within the reality of the ever-shifting flow of events and circumstance. The complexity of it all appears beyond our capabilities.
Is that really true? While we cannot control what others may do, do we not control what we ourselves do? Can we not make the first step ourselves, without a policy directive from on high? Do we really need more training, or instead do we need to take the responsibility for action on our own shoulders?
When everything is said and done, executives, managers, and line-supervisors need to set aside substantial time from their busy week to use a technique first made popular by the book, In Search of Excellence (Waterman & Peters, 1962): “Management by Walking Around” or MBWA.
This technique is a well-known and proven practice. Good managers and good leaders tend to communicate a lot better with their teams and subordinates when they take the time to informally and randomly interact on a one-to-one basis. When done correctly and consistently, MBWA:
Enhances and stimulates the level and quality of communication between employees and the manager;
Provides information that may provide other perspectives on how well the organization is functioning on a day-to-day basis;
Provides the opportunity for leaders and managers to be mentored by their subordinates;
Provides opportunities for new and creative solution approaches not previously considered, and to identify potential new talent;
Creates an environment of trust by demonstrating that the manager is willing and able to meet their employees on their own “turf”; and
Breaks the cycle of endless, mind-numbing meetings.
Why limit the MBWA technique to just executives, managers, and supervisors? This very same technique can be used to help resolve workplace issues and problem-solve conflicts over scarce resources and competing priorities. Don’t we all have a responsibility to manage and lead within the context of our own job role and responsibility?
Summary and Conclusion
We live in a world that is now more complex, more dangerous, and less predictable. With technology has come greater information, vastly more sophisticated communications, and greater competition for increasingly scarce resources. Where once the great majority of individuals ventured no more than 50 miles from the spot they were born, we now see a continual churn of individuals in our places of business and in our communities.
Ultimately, not all people are satisfied with their circumstances and jobs. However, if we take responsibility for managing and leading, this might change. Life is a never-ending quest for excellence. We are all capable of trying and doing better, but without strategic actions, we might not fully attain our full potential. This begins with actively seeking the trust of those with whom we associate and do business and then, through actions and not words, demonstrating that we are trustworthy.
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Chemers, M. (2014). An Integrative Theory of Leadership. Psychology Press.
Emerson, R. W. (1850). Representative Men : seven lectures. London: George Routledge & Co.
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