managing-leadingI have always believed it is important to know the difference between managing and leading and we invest a significant amount of time in our leadership development program clarifying it.

I read with interest in the October 9-13 2013 issue of BRW when Professor Roger Collins stated that “…people reach for leadership to inspire people to go above and beyond the call of duty. But the economic downturn … dragged on for five years, and leadership wears thin when too little attention has been paid to the skills of management.”

He goes on to claim that people have tried to solve problems during this time through leadership even when the problem is below standard performers. This kind of problem calls for management not leadership; and he sees leaders trying to forge a direction for an organisation that has become dysfunctional because of a lack of management. In my experience organisations consistently downplay management skills in favour of leadership skills. Twenty years ago we were busy facilitating Management Development Programs and now we facilitate Leadership Development Programs.

I think it is vital to differentiate management from leadership and it is a topic we regularly explore in our development programs – managing determines quality of performance and leadership inspires people to move constructively into the future. I have always valued the work of John Kotter in this sphere and regularly refer to him. He differentiated leadership and management very clearly and succinctly. Let me know if you want more detail – happy to provide it.

We engage in a debate in our development programs: managing and leading are opposite sides of the same coin and we cannot expect people to flip from one side of the coin to the other. We are simply expecting too much of our people. This debate arouses great emotion and we find ourselves differentiating the reality of “what is” because of the removal of people from the different layers of leadership and management populations from “what is reasonable and fair to expect.”

I totally agree with Roger’s claim that “We have oversold leadership at the expense of management”. That has certainly been my experience and I strive to bring recognition to the importance of both – we also explore the possibility of having people who are good at managing working alongside people who are good at leading so they collaborate to create a high performing “top team”. However in the current business environment more people want to be leaders – managers are seen as members of a lower echelon in these “top teams”.

I question if this is the right way to move forward – why are we downplaying the skills of management in favour of our view that leadership skills are of a higher order?

Both managing and leading are of equal importance and need to be developed, nurtured and encouraged.