The difference between Leading and Managing

Many people use these words interchangeably. However, they do not mean the same thing. In a nutshell, you manage resources and you lead people. Those who apply an entirely management-orientated practice to people, in H-Training’s experience, tend to drift more toward the autocratic style, or they lose the very people they need to perform the required work. However, good leaders bring people with them, and instil a belief in the task that motivates others to work harder.

However, there is an art form to this. For example, one resource you do have to manage is time and this may include managing people in order to protect it. While we don’t want to break the relationship people do have to respect your boundaries. And in a sense this is the balancing act.

The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid distinguishes between the importance of the two key elements in the workplace: the relationship and the task. Based upon its findings it categorises a manager’s emphasis on either of these as denoting a style. But one of these styles we need to be careful of is being over-reliant on the relationship, which Blake and Mouton call the Country Club style. If you do this it gives the team member leverage over you and in a sense the tail begins to wag the dog. Managers wo are too attached to being liked are at risk here.

This cannot persist as the team then leads you as opposed to the other way around. However, this dynamic often leads to a pushback that has created many an autocratic manager and indeed visits to the Labour Court. Recognising that they are losing control the managers react and essentially enter into a wrestling match or a battle of wills with a team member or enclave.

This is never a good sign, as often it signals a weakness not only to the team but also more senior managers who may have to intervene. When this happens it completely undermines the manager and once this dynamic begins to emerge it can be difficult to recover. Often team-members begin to go around the Team Leader to more senior managers, which is its own passive-affront. However, it is still possible to do this with support and a change of approach. But once people begin to form an opinion and lose faith in the new manager, these beliefs are difficult to shift.

In this sense, self-management and a clear and consistent approach needs to be adopted to facilitate a change. We have worked with many managers who have overcome these difficulties and it does take a lot of energy and perseverance to right the ship, however it is possible. Often a distancing process may be needed, to clarify the purpose of the relationship. Whilst good rapport and comradery can build a great atmosphere in any workplace, it is also important to understand that your primary relationship is a commercial one. This is what everything else is based on and if we lose sight of it we compromise our end goal. Many people don’t like to hear it, but the reality is you are not your team member’s friend first, you are their leader. Blurring the lines here by joking with them in the canteen and being open with them about your struggles or otherwise can confuse this relationship and lead to poor progression.


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