Lead People, Manage Things
High-performing teams and organizations balance the discipline of systems, processes, and technology management on a base of effective people leadership. Here are some of the key distinctions between the two:

The Management-Leadership Balance



Systems, processes, and technology

People — context and culture

Goals, standards, and measurements

Preferred future, principles, and purpose



Strategic planning

Strategic opportunism

A way of doing

A way of being



Responding and reacting

Initiating and originating

Continuous improvement of what is

Innovative breakthroughs to what could be

Both management and leadership skills are needed

Both management and leadership skills are needed at the organizational, team, and personal levels. It’s not a case of either/or, but and/also. Futurist, Joel Barker provides another helpful distinction between the two roles; “managers manage within paradigms, leaders lead between paradigms.” Both are needed. Trying to run an organization with only leadership or management is like trying to cut a page with half a pair of scissors. Leadership and management are a matched set; both are needed to be effective.

Systems and processes (management) for example, are critical to success. You and your organization can be using the latest technologies and be highly focused on customers and those serving them (leadership), but if the methods and approaches you’re using to structure and organize your work is weak, your performance will suffer badly. People in your organization can be “empowered,” energized, and enlightened; but if your systems, processes, and technologies don’t enable them to perform well, they won’t. Developing the discipline, and using the most effective tools and techniques, of personal and organization systems and processes is a critical element of high performance.

But as the sweeping movement to teams, “empowerment,” and involvement intensifies, many more daily management tasks are moving to the front lines where they belong. So leadership becomes even more critical. Unfortunately, many people in so-called leadership positions aren’t leaders. They’re managers, bureaucrats, technocrats, bosses, administrators, department heads, and the like; but they aren’t leaders. On the other hand, some people in individual contributor roles are powerful leaders. Leadership is an action, not a position.

A leader doesn’t just react and respond, but rather takes the initiative and generates action. A leader doesn’t say “something should be done,” but ensures something is done. An effective leader is a “people person.” Effective leaders connect, stay in contact with, and are highly visible to everyone on their team and in their organization. Leaders have developed the skills of supercharging logic, data, and analysis with emotion, pride, and the will to win. Their passion and enthusiasm for the team or organization’s vision and purpose is highly contagious. They fire the imaginations, develop the capabilities, and build the confidence of people to “go for it.” Leaders help people believe the impossible is possible, which makes it highly probable.

Do you like to be managed or led? You’re not alone. Very few people want to work for a manager. Most of us would much rather be led by a leader. To manage is to control, handle, or manipulate. To lead is to guide, influence, or persuade. You manage things — systems, processes, and technology. You lead people. The roots of the rampant morale, energy, and performance problems found in many organizations are technomanagers who treat people as “human resources” to be managed. If you want to manage someone, manage yourself. Once you master that, you’ll be a much more effective leader of others.