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The Entrepreneur: Leadership v Management

Posted on May 24, 2013

There are six times as many results on Google for "management" as there are "leadership". Six times. There's a basic problem here, and that is in definitions. Management and leadership are often taken as one and the same.

But they couldn't be more different.

I don't want to invent another approach to either, or get academic about this. Because the difference between leadership and management is so basic, so fundamental, that it's often overlooked.

It's as simple as this: leadership is time-travel.

Management is about now. Leadership is about the future. Management is about getting the best from where you are. Leadership is more about where you want to be.

That's why, so often, leaders are criticised for overlooking current achievements. For them, today has gone, why celebrate it? What's next?

Leadership needs the counterbalance of management to truly succeed in the long term. But it is leadership that gives the business its vision of the future.

You may think this is simplistic. I think simple is best. You will be tested as a leader so test yourself now.

Are you in today or tomorrow?

Plastic cutlery?

For a reason I'll explain only for a fee, I've just completed one of those online shrink tests that are intended to reveal your inner axe-murderer.

You know the type of thing – it asks a range of seemingly irrelevant questions and then leaps to the conclusion that, rather than counselling as a career, you'd be better off invading Poland.

The way people react to these is more revealing than the analysis itself. I worked with a man – robust, bright, challenging – who had a mystery illness every time such an exercise was proposed. Eventually, as you probably would expect, we took the textbook HR approach.

We ambushed him.

It turned out that he was truly fearful of his own perception of himself. And that perception was a way distant from what everyone else saw. HE thought of himself as an indecisive manager, blinded by self-doubt and lost in a role beyond him. WE, on the other hand, viewed him as an intelligent, self-motivated leader who was left almost entirely alone to get on with the job.

In this case, a little more support went a very long way. And from the mind of the man himself, the few extra percentage points of confidence were transformational.

So the value in the exercise isn't in the precision of the result but in our perspectives. We're not going to change the way someone is, but we can change the way we react to them, and understand more about how they react to us.

The lesson? Self-awareness is something you have to be taught. The impact you have on people may be totally different to the one you intend. I have never known anyone who does not need to know more about their effect on others. Do not be too arrogant to ignore this, or too afraid of the result to avoid it.

Approach these exercises with the belief that there is no right or wrong, there is simply what you are. That is going to be good enough, but it can be better. The more you know about yourself, and what you do to others, the more complete a leader you will be.

Work/life balance

Phrases that should be banned #1

Somewhere in the damp, dark annals of people management lies the origin of this phrase. Created with good intent and a furrowed brow by a tweed-jacketed academic peering into a future of reduced working hours.

The mantra was co-opted by HR advisers, union officials, maniacally grinning life counsellors who are clearly on better drugs than I can find, and earnest sociologists.

But those words are utterly misguided.

For this simple reason: they imply that "work" and "life" are on the opposite ends of the scales. That they are opposing forces. That they work against each other.

That is defeat for both you and your team. We shouldn't be looking for an antidote to work. We should spend less time pretending this is a tightrope act and think more carefully about how to make the business somewhere people like to spend their time.

Not all of this is in the gift of the business leader, but most is. This is not about the type of work. It isn't necessarily about the place, although some attention to detail is vital.

It's about the attitude and the belief of the leaders and the extent to which they care, almost uniformly, for the people they work with. And therefore - because leaders' behaviour becomes the culture of a business - what it feels like to work around here.

Now I know you're a fighting pit-prop of an entrepreneur and you don't always feel you should be such a cuddly pushover, so maybe think about three things:

  1. Everyone is important. The story of the season: Alex Ferguson resigns? Nope, the tale from one of his players of finding this man, not noted for his pliability, sitting on a counter in the laundry room after a huge Champions League match, chatting to the ladies sorting the dirty kit.
  2. People are never motivated by money above happiness. This is not about flinging cheques around until a smile appears.
  3. Your business is a community. Does it feel like one?

A Life of Wasted Time?

Deep conversation this weekend made me aware of how little control we may exert over our lives.

You cannot control everything (and shouldn't try to), but the question is – are you on the receiving end or are you doing the things that matter, and for a reason?

And whilst I decided then and there what mattered and what I am going to make happen... I forgot about the notepad I'd left by the computer in the office on Friday evening.

I looked at the list just now and thought again about that wisdom and how I could apply it. Let me try it out.

First up, choose what is true of you:

"I am surrounded by things I need to do"

"I am surrounded by things that need to be done"

Or is it neither, and the question you should be asking is whether these things need doing – at all.

Around a third of your time is spent doing things that just don't matter and half the rest doing things that someone else could. No: someone else should .

Here are some questions to ask of your time this week and every week, this day and every day.....until you ask them every time you feel you have to do something:

  1. How long is your list? Long lists never get done. Start crossing things off
  2. What are your real priorities? Most priorities are not priorities, they are stuff.
  3. Why you? It isn't only your time you're wasting by not giving the work out.

And above all, remember a question once asked of me by a potential client. We were in a first meeting gained from a mailshot, never the best place. We had 35 minutes then he started to put on his coat. We speeded into the bit about how interesting we were and we would leave him a brochure and.....he held up a hand to halt the hyperventilating flow.

"The only thing I want to know" he said "Is what difference you make?"

He remembered what most of us forget.

Real priorities are ones that make a difference, everything else is less.

 
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