by Tim Durkin
The choices are these: heat light.
Now, fill in the blanks: Leaders provide _________. Managers provide __________.
The answers: Leaders provide light. Managers provide heat.
That’s the difference between leading and managing… a question I’ve been asked with regularity since taking the platform as a professional speaker and consultant nearly a dozen years ago.
Then, as now, the people who asked that question were seeking guidance in doing the right thing at the right time, not just an academic examination of linguistic difference. It also seemed important not only have a concise answer but an answer that would serve as a template for a variety of situations.
Studying management and leadership has become an exercise in overwhelm. Googling the two terms finds more than 175 million pages of information on the Web alone, and boiling down the collective thinking on when to lead and when to manage leaves us with a simple message – today’s successful managers should excel, first and foremost, in energy management.
Whether we are in manufacturing or services, the manager’s primary job is to manage his or her own energy as well the energy of the group. By applying the energy analogy again, it’s easy to see the difference between making sure people do things right (managing) and making sure the right things are getting done (leading).
When we talk about managers and leaders, we aren’t talking about two people. We are talking about one individual with two separate roles. In the role of leader, we provide direction, energy, vision – and sometimes hope. As managers, we make things happen.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
The real challenge, however, comes in knowing what to do when.
It’s common for some people to rely on one role more than the other. Providing light doesn’t always produce results. The same is true about heat. As someone once said, “man without a vision will perish.” Maybe so, but if all man has is a vision, he’s done for anyway.
Here’s why: Results matter. In business, results are practically all that matters. Results lead to profits. Profits are to business what breath is to the body.
As the English philosopher John Ruskin once wrote: “What we think, what we say, and what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only thing that is of consequence is what we do.” He’s talking about results.
Granted, there are few things more energizing than operating when the so-called heat is on, but when the heat doesn’t come off, energy is the casualty followed quickly by results. Why? Because providing heat for an extended period of time can wither the collective energy of a group or the individual radiating the heat.
But let’s be realistic. Some people don’t get it – and will never get it, no matter how much light you give them. Sometimes you have to move that halogen beam of yours close enough to singe arm hairs, just to get the group’s attention.
Here’s one more point to ponder: In neither the leadership nor management role should we ever sanction incompetence.
Performance: For those of you just starting out as managers or those who wish to examine their own balance of management and leadership, there is a simple litmus test: After an interaction with an individual or a group, ask yourself these two questions: As a result of that interaction did that person(s) feel like I provided them light or heat? Then ask yourself: Which was my intention to provide?
You’ll quickly be able to find the correct balance for your situation by the results your group gets and the group’s temperature in the process.
Tim Durkin leads individuals and groups from promise to performance. He specializes in helping manage through times change, teambuilding, sales and leadership effectiveness and personal development.
For reprint information or to find out more about Tim Durkin and Seneca Leadership Consulting, you can contact him at 972-523-5151 (972-394-5216) or by email at email@example.com.