One of the ‘golden threads’ tying all of our leadership training in the Army together is understanding the differences between leadership and management. Of course, much of what we do in camp or in the office is management so how do we lead whilst managing?

Management isn’t a dirty word – Manager is!

Any CEO or team leader needs to manage, it’s part of the job. But how can you make sure you’re managing as a leader and not a manager? The first step is to understand some of the differences between a traditional ‘status-quo’ manager and a visionary leader.

1. Ethos vs Rules List

A manager will ensure that his staff work in the way he/she wants by laying out a set of rules. People understand rules so at a very basic level this will work. However a rules list lays out the things you’re not allowed to do. Immediately there’s a negative feeling surrounded around what the staff are required to not do!

A leader will focus on the positive things people can do! By creating an ethos or a team set of values the company can ‘live by’ you’re encouraging a great working environment. This will still achieve the required effect of having a list of things one can gauge whether an employee is working appropriately. Instead of saying “You did something the rules list says not to” you can say “You didn’t act in a way in line with our team values”. The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency has a great podcast on How to Discover Your Own Core Values i’d recommend listening to!

2. People vs Process

A manager will focus on processes to achieve tasks or affect change. If you’re requiring your team to follow a process you might as well employ robots. This isn’t entirely true. Clearly processes are required for efficient working but be aware that it kerbs creativity and initiative. This could result in a team that struggles to find a solution to a new problem due to a heavy dependance on process.

A leader, when faced with a task or problem, will focus on the people they have. They will look at their team’s strengths, weaknesses and find opportunity for creative solutions.

3. Encouraging Risk vs Minimising Risk

A manager is afraid of risk. Risk is when their is an uncertainty to the result of an action that could either lead to success or failure. When a manager notices a risk they will try and minimise it to reduce the chance of failure. What this also does however is reduce the chance of success.

A leader will embrace risk and even encourage team members to take it. Taking calculated risks can lead to new successful strategies and shows the trust a leader places in their team. Read 5 Reasons You Need to Make Mistakes to be Successful to learn more about the importance of taking risks. Which successful company do you know that hasn’t taken risks along the way?!

4. Soft Targets Vs Hard Targets

A manager is focused on numbers, “how many have we sold?”, “what is this quarter’s growth?”. A manager’s obsession with figures naturally leads to targets based on hard data such as gross-profit or growth. How inspiring really are these targets to your team? I’d suggest not especially! There is no doubt that these clinical targets are important but the point is that they don’t inspire or motivate.

A leader might try to focus on some softer targets. Whether that’s a focus on employee welfare, implementation of company values or making the office a better working environment. It’s much harder to assess the success of these targets sat behind a desk with a spreadsheet. How about a bit of team input then? Get the team together before and after and see how people ‘feel’ progress has been on the soft targets. Improving some of the soft examples above will lead to greater profits or quarterly growth anyway!

5. Job Satisfaction vs Financial Incentive

A manager will try to superficially incentivise their employees. Believe it or not this does work – shock! However study after study shows that financial motivation is a short term fix. As a manager do you really want money to be the only reason people work hard for you?

A leader will nurture an environment where team members work because of the job satisfaction they’ll get. They’ll get satisfaction from doing a job well, for having a positive impact on the team and for developing themselves professionally. In order to create such an environment a leader must focus on softer parameters. In some instances a leader may have to sacrifice getting a job done as quickly as possible by letting a newer team member gain experience. This can also be achieved by giving the team responsibility for not just the outcome of the target but how to achieve it too!

6. Delegation vs Micro Management

A manager who’s telling you how to do your job or constantly peering over your shoulder is someone we all find it difficult to work for. Managers are professionally competent, clearly, however they find it hard to let people do it their own way.

A Leader will give people an outcome they require, set the parameters, freedoms and constraints and let the team get on with the job. When a team is left to their own devices you’ll be amazed at the ingenious solutions they’ll come up with. You’ll also have a team that has ‘bought in’ to the project. Read 5 Reasons You Need to Delegate Your Way to Success to find out more on the importance of delegating.

7. Breaking Walls vs Building Walls

A manager will put up barriers that will generally hinder the team’s ability to be creative. Whether it’s providing the funding, time, resources or simply approval for a new idea. Anything that deviates from the existing procedures set out by the manager will likely be terminated. This could be for many reasons including reluctance to take risk and their ‘process over people’ attitude.

A leader will do their best to facilitate the needs of their team. Not only is a leader likely to help resource a new idea the leader will likely coach the team through the development of their plan. This is great for the team but also means that the leader is nurturing creativity which has the potential to lead to huge organisational success!

8. Morals vs Money

A manager isn’t necessarily amoral but their morals certainly isn’t what drive their business decisions. A manager is focused on bringing in the money, beating the competition and making the most efficient organisation possible. That could mean employees are fired only because they’re not making as much money as their colleagues. On paper that employee wasn’t ‘cost-effective’ but what the manager won’t have on their database is the strengths that employee brought to the team. They could have been a fantastic people person or was the main source of creativity in meetings.

A leader is much more likely to make decisions based on their morals and the teams values. This comes down to a saying used a lot in the Army:

A leader will do the right thing on a difficult day

This could mean that the leader turns down a lucrative business deal because that business doesn’t exhibit the values of an organisation you want to be associated with. Doing this can command a lot of respect from your team further increasing their allegiance to the team under your leadership.

9. 360 Feedback vs Top-Down Feedback

A manager will be very happy to give feedback to their employees. Whilst ‘constructive’ feedback is important a manager is unlikely to allow many opportunities for feedback about themselves from the team. This may be due to a superiority complex but either way a manager is kidding themselves if they think they’re the best they can be.

A leader will create avenues to enable what we call in the Army 360 degree feedback. This basically gives everyone in an organisation the opportunity to give feedback to one another including the ‘boss’. Whether you decide to do this in a forum or via anonymous means (of which there are pros and cons to both) this allows for personal development of every member of the team. Importantly it gives the leader a chance to professionally develop. Not only this but it allows the leader to recognise any ‘soft issues’ within the team and presents an opportunity for them to be talked through by everyone. For more information on 360 degree feedback read What is 360 Degree Feedback? by Custom Insight.

10. Long Term Goals vs Short Term Fix

A manager will deal with an issue as quickly and cheaply as possible before moving on. Whilst throwing some money at or having a meeting about a problem might deal with the symptoms, they might not deal with the source of the problem.

At work a colleague of mine was having a problem with 2 men fighting in ‘the block’. My colleague moved these 2 men (that I won’t name)  from next door to one another to opposite ends of the block. That was the end of the fighting but 2 weeks later my colleague noticed a project he had tasked his men with wasn’t finished on time. After a bit of investigation it turned out that the 2 men wouldn’t talk to each other whilst ‘on the job’. Clearly my colleague had dealt with the symptom of the issue but the problem still remained!

A leader will look for the source of the problem and try and reach a solution with the rest of the team. In the situation mentioned above my colleague finally got the 2 men together to have a discussion. When the source of the issue was discovered a solution to which both the men agreed would help was reached. To this day the working and even social relation of the men has improved drastically so much so that they’ve requested to be moved back to next one another!

11. Coach vs Direct

A manager will take the easiest ‘most efficient route’. They believe that when addressing an employee an order like direction is sufficient. For some employees this will be enough to get the job done but there is no opportunity for that individual to learn and grow from your own experiences.

A leader will take the time to coach and mentor their team members. As a leader not only will you likely have a huge amount of professional knowledge but you’ll have the ability to pass it to others effectively. A leader should make a conscious effort to develop their team with soft targets for each member to aim for. This should always be agreed in a discussion with the member and with structure. In the Army we use a model known as the GROW model which allows a great opportunity for contribution from the person the target is for. Read here for more on the GROW model.

GROW model of performance coaching

GROW model of performance coaching

12. Relationships vs Clients

A manager will consider many of their clients to be just that, clients. This is possible when there is a mutual benefit to the business and client but is only based on convenience and need. This can lead to termination of contracts or business once the client no longer requires your service or can find it somewhere else cheaper.

A leader will build relationships with their clients. You might be surprised to know that conversations I have with many of my soldiers start off with a chat about ‘the holiday the soldier has just had’ or ‘their new dog’. Whilst this isn’t always appropriate it shows a relationship built on more than just services. It encourages trust and respect which are the pillars to any long lasting relationship.

13. Care For Welfare vs “Leave it at Home”

A manager will ask you to leave all of your social baggage at home. As far as the manager is concerned bringing your issues to the work place will distract you from your work. Well in this instance the manager is correct, bringing your baggage to work will distract you. Where the manager fails to lead is by suggesting you should just leave it at the door. This is a ridiculous suggestion, if you’re able to flick the switch like that you’re in the minority.

A leader will understand you might have this baggage and invite you to deal with it. You might not feel comfortable expressing your issues to your boss but a good leader will at least give you the opportunity to. Furthermore the environment of the office, through your team’s and leader’s values will if not make you feel comfortable sharing, at the very least make it easier to forget what might be going on at home.

One of the greatest differences I experience as a leader in a military environment is that whilst i’m a leader in a task orientated sense, many of my team will also come to me as a marriage councillor, financial advisor and agony aunt. Whilst many of these tasks will require what we call ‘sign-posting’ to an expert, I have to be available to understand and care!

14. Personal Relationships vs Working Relationships

A manager will understand the requirement for their employees to get on and work together. What a manager won’t do however is have any relationship with his/her employees out of the work place. If this is the stance of the manager rest-assure this will be the stance your employees will take.

A leader will understand that one of the best ways to nurture a great working relationship is for people to understand one another on a personal level. Whether that’s understanding each others interests, hobbies and things the team members might have in common. This is easily achieved by team building sessions or simply a work meal out or other social event. It’s worth mentioning now that this can’t be forced on a team because ultimately it’s not in their job description. But if that ethos is encompassed in your team values then you’re much more likely to attract the right people.

15. Encourages Ambition vs Fears For Their Job

A manager will encourage ambition to the extent that it benefits their business. As soon as that ambition gets the better of the manager’s insecurities you may find yourself either fired or put in a dead-end job.

A leader understands the value in creating a team of the best possible individuals they can. Whether this is through development from within the business or employing great people. Either way a leader will understand the benefit of having great people. If someone starts to show leadership potential, a leader won’t fear a mutiny. A leader will nurture the talent and most likely put that person in a position of leadership responsibility. Yes, there is always a chance that you might be usurped but with the right team and the right values, the risk is manageable. After all, only by taking risk can we succeed!

Have Your Say

I will admit i’ve been quite black and white about the differences between a manager and a leader. I’m curious to know if you feel there are any good examples of times when a purely managerial style is most appropriate? Let me know in Your Thoughts or comment below and as always i’ll reply and may even elaborate on your thought in a future post.

-The Military CEO