Leadership vs. Management

Wed, Dec 10, 2008


1. Working Culture/Style

As an executive, how do you get every employee to participate and contribute to the organizations success?

  • You like to provide assistance and support to those who face problems. You like providing solutions to whoever comes to your door. Or, you like to draw out the best from your employees by enabling them to answer series of questions regarding their efforts.

Answer: Managers are problem solvers. As controllers of the system, the responsibility of answering questions lies with them. Leaders, on the other hand, believe leading with questions wakes people up and gets them participating. It leads to responsibility being shared. It builds a questioning culture, in which openness and inquisitiveness are encouraged, reducing the possibility of organizational disasters, which too often occur when people are afraid to ask questions. It stimulates sensible risk-taking.

2. Decision Making

As the head of the company, you have to make the right decisions. While doing this,

  • You prefer making right decisions such that the damage incurred is the least. In order to this, you don’t act on impulse rather make a calculated decision each time. And you do not mind if it takes slightly longer than expected to decide. Or, you understand the risk of making wrong decisions. Nevertheless you make the decisions without delaying, even in the absence of hard facts, relying more on your intuition.

Answer: Managers take calculated risk and base their decisions on hard facts. Leaders make timely decisions even in the absence of sufficient facts.

3. Primary Problem-solving Method

Your marketing team has asked you, the CEO, to either replace their team leader or move them to other teams. How will you solve this problem?

  • You will personally talk to the team leader and find out his/her opinion on the situation. You will also consult your friend and then decide. Or, you will decide based on your intuition/sense of the leader’s personality/situation.

Answer: A Manager will use the power of logical mind. And so will gather all information possible from various sources and then make a decision. A Leader uses the power of intuition when solving a problem.

4. Competitive Strategy/Advantage Focus

You are planning to expand your business in upcoming economies. China and India have been on the radar of other companies vying for untapped potential. When considering these two countries:

1. Will you sense the opportunities these markets offer and charge ahead? Or, will you decide based on market research data after 6 months?

Answer: Leaders are hungry for opportunities no matter what challenges they bring whereas Managers tend to play it safe. They would rather wait and watch to see how others perform or tread slowly based on expert information.

2. Will you follow the best practices of companies who have set up their shop there? Or, will you carve and pursue your own vision?

Answer: Leaders are in the vision business. They deliver vision and direction, inspiration and motivation. Managers tend to think more in terms of what has been done before and try to make more incremental improvements. They follow examples to stay in control.

3. Will you evaluate the competition and devise strategies to beat the rivals? Or, work towards forming partnerships for business excellence?

Answer: Managers strive to contribute to organizational success through competence and competition. Leaders, on the other hand, focus on end result and form partnerships for achieving business dreams.

4. Will you be focus on correcting inexperience, say language, culture, etc? Or, take the inexperience as an opportunity and build on strengths, say technological prowess?

Answer: Managers establish processes and improvise continuously for maximum efficiency. They thrive on corrections. Leaders like challenges in all forms to realize their dreams.

5. Organizational Culture/Capability

Your organization is ailing from high attrition rate. You are losing your best talent because of employee dissatisfaction and increased job opportunities in the market. You have embarked on a drive to change the work environment.

1. Will you gather employee feedback and act to minimize dissatisfaction? Or, will you implement best industry practices in people management?

Answer: Leaders are people oriented. They tailor the solution to the situation. Hence, a leader will typically act on employee feedback. To play safe, Managers will practice what involves minimum risk.

2. Spend more time on the development of the weaker performers than the top performers who can take care of themselves? Or, spend more attention on those employees who are best at what they do?

Answer: Managers use their time as a reward, and seek to invest their attention where it can have the most upside impact. And hence work towards development of weak performers. Leaders spend more of their attention on the people who are best at what they do, since those are the people who will invent the greatest process and performance improvements in the future.

3. Recruit people who are more like you such that managing them will be easier due to common interest and working style. Or, recruit people who are different and in fact, better than you and have crazy dreams?

Answer: Managers tend to want to feel more in control of their surroundings ‘“ not least of all because highly talented people can be very independent and difficult to ‘manage!’ They recruit who are more like them. Leaders like creativity and innovation. They like to recruit those who have dreams no matter how weird.

4. You will encourage your employees to meet performance expectations and reward. Or, will you encourage employees to work what they love such that the job becomes a fun activity?

Answer: Leaders want their colleagues to treat their job as a hobby and least as an obligation. Hence they encourage creativity and choice of work. Managers on the other hand, like to work within the scope of the job description for maximum productivity and thus encourage competition.

6. External/Internal Change

The changes brought forth by market dynamics and competition has forced you to respond to these changes as per the situation.

1. You prefer maintaining status quo and yearn for stability as it helps consistent growth. Or, you prefer change; as a hyper-active child it was difficult to hush you. You thrive on crisis and yearn for new challenges?

Answer: Managers love to stay in control and hence, resist change. Leaders thrive on change and hence, encourage new ideas.

2. You prefer duplicating somebody else’s approach as it saves time and leads to better control of actions. Or, you prefer ‘variety’ and newer things each time?

Answer: Managers like to take ‘tried and tested’ approach in comparison to new things as it means less risk. Leaders prefer taking a new approach for every situation.

3. You like simplicity and strive to redevelop and revolutionize. Or, no matter what you do, you like progress and hence you strive to reorganize, refine, and re-plan for better results.

Answer: Leaders like novel, revolutionary ideas as they give rise to innovation. But at the same time they like to keep the process simple such that maximum people benefit from it whereas Managers continuously refine an approach which is familiar. Their focus lies on progress within the scope of their jobs.

7. Individual Effectiveness Style

As an individual contributor,

1. You are methodical and think logically. Or, you like to challenge traditional processes; people say you are abstract and weird.

Answer: Managers have a logical flow of thoughts and hence follow procedures. Leaders pursue their dreams and thus work according to what the situation demands.

2. You respect credentials and value hierarchical growth. Or, you don’t care so much for hierarchies as much as capability.

Answer: Leaders value ability to perform what people know and like best. Managers like to stress the boundaries of hierarchy to achieve smooth flow of work.

3. You view work as an art and hence, plan and establish processes; you confront people and encourage opposing views? Or, you view work as an enabling process; you establish strategies and make decisions by combining people and ideas; you continually coordinate and balance opposing views.

Answer: Leaders view work as an art and the root cause of innovation. They treat opposition and conflict of views positively. Managers view work as a process for organizational success.

4. You are an organized person and perform your duties in the best interest of the company. Or, you pursue your dreams?

Answer: Management is about the “hard skills.” Management focuses on the business of the business; it involves planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and measuring. Leadership is about the soft skills. It focuses on the business of pursuing dreams; it involves visioning and setting direction, influencing and motivation, and innovation and simplicity.

8. Bottom-line Performance/Results

You have been running this business for 20 years. You have seen it change and grow in different shades. Your take on bottom-line business growth:

1. Pursuing the tangible, fairly compensating employees, and practicing efficient processes. Or, seeking the intangible, providing a satisfactory work environment to the employees and pursuing dreams.

Answer: Managers attribute organizational success to three ingredients – realistic goals, satisfactory pay and efficient processes. Leaders view success in innovation through abstract dreams. They provide a healthy and fun-filled work environment to their colleagues.

2. Serving the present demands of the market and maintaining uniformity of customer satisfaction. Or, residing in the future and encouraging a demanding customer base.

Answer: Leaders foster innovation for tomorrow, anticipating future demands. Managers provide solution to current problems.

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