Straight Talk

The difference between managing and leading

A much-quoted management bromide you and I have heard ad infinitum defines "management" as the skill of getting people to do something you want them to do because you want them to do it and "leadership" as the art of getting people to do something you want them to do because they want to do it. I have no argument with this premise. I do, however, find it too simplistic and much too restrictive. In my opinion, managers and leaders have significantly different personalities and there should be no confusion about what those differences are, or how the functions performed by managers and leaders differ. There are many simpler, shorter, starker, and more significant ways to describe those innate differences. Here's my list: Managers cuss. Leaders discuss. Managers stew. Leaders do. Managers resolve. Leaders involve. Managers spare. Leaders share. Managers pare. Leaders dare. Managers require. Leaders inspire. Managers preach. Leaders teach. Managers depress. Leaders impress. Managers detect. Leaders respect. Managers haze. Leaders praise. Managers control. Leaders extol. Managers remand. Leaders expand. Managers react. Leaders enact. Managers yank. Leaders thank. Managers bray. Leaders pay. Managers follow rules. Leaders make them. Managers dread failure. Leaders learn from it. Managers are afraid to make mistakes. Leaders turn mistakes into new businesses. Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things. Managers do things that translate into action. Leaders do things that translate into vision. Managers do things that demand results. Leaders do things that expand opportunities. Managers do things that protect the status quo. Leaders do things to make their companies grow. Managers think and work inside the box. Leaders are happier working and thinking outside the box. Managers ask, "What's wrong with the company?" Leaders ask, "What's right for the company?" I agree with those who maintain that today's mega corporations are so encumbered with rules, regulations, and traditions that they are designed to be managed rather than led. Would-be leaders are forced to follow systems and styles prescribed in policy manuals and precedent. It is an insidious form of "leadership by followership." It's an easier way to run a company because it's easier to manage than to lead. But it's not the better way. Lao-tzu once wrote: "When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'" He believed that leadership should benefit the followers. That's why he recommended, "To lead people, walk behind them."

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Calling all wordsmiths: I need your help to write a future column on CEOs as VIPs. Most people would agree that chief executives are VIPs. Most people would agree that in common usage, the acronym VIP stands for Very Important Person. However, VIP is an acronym that could just as easily refer to a Very Intelligent Person, Very Influential Person, Very Ignorant Person, or even Very Inferior Person. I invite you to send me your list of 10 I-words that describe the best CEOs and your list of 10 I-words that describe the worst CEOs. After I receive your lists, I will total the number of times each I-word is used, and create a composite of "The Ten Best" and "The Ten Worst" CEOs. I will select the individual entries that match the composites most closely and announce the winners in a future column. E-mail your suggestions to [email protected] or fax to 216/228-9640. Is this a useless exercise? A waste of time? I think not! Successful chief executives share common characteristics. And so do unsuccessful ones. Establishing those characteristics is the first step to achieving success, or to avoiding failure. Sal F. Marino is chairman emeritus of Penton Media Inc. and an IW contributing editor. His e-mail address is [email protected]
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