Check Your Balance with the Performance Triangle

The terms “management” and “leadership” are often interchanged. In fact, many people view them as basically the same thing. Yet management is as distinct from leadership as day is from night. Both are necessary, however, for a high-performance organization. By contrasting them and understanding their differences, we can better balance and improve these essential roles.



Processes People
Facts Feelings
Intellectual Emotional
Head Heart
Position Power Persuasion Power
Control Commitment
Problem Solving Possibility Thinking
Reactive Proactive
Doing Things Right Doing the Right Things
Rules Values
Goals Vision
Light a Fire Under People Stoke the Fire Within People
Written Communications Verbal Communications
Standardization Innovation

Both management and leadership are needed to make teams and organizations successful. Trying to decide which is more important, is like trying to decide whether the right or left wing is more important to an airplane’s flight. I’ll take both please!

In The CLEMMER Group’s consulting and training work, we often add a third element — technical — to management and leadership to form what we call a “Performance Triangle.” This adds another dimension to the question, “how should the organization’s focus be allocated to each area?”

The triangle depicts the balance between the three critical success factors. Imagine a pendulum swinging in the center of the triangle. It’s very difficult to keep the pendulum in a state of equilibrium. In some cases, organizations may need to swing the pendulum in one direction because that’s where it’s weakest. For example, entrepreneurial start-up companies often have strong vision, passion, and energy (leadership) and may also have good technological or technical skills. But their lack of systems and processes or poor management discipline leads to a lot of errors, poor service/quality, and frustration for customers and people in the organization.

Below is an exercise from The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner that I use in most workshops and management retreats to help participants do a balance check. Each person independently allocates the percent of time they feel their team is devoting to each of the three areas. Since the group isn’t athletes giving “110 percent” and our time and resources are a zero sum game, it must add up to 100 percent. Next, participants complete what they feel the team’s time allocation should be. Participants then compare scores and use this as the beginning point for a lively discussion in their roles, team balance, and how they use their time.

While apparently simple, the exercise is often much more difficult than it first appears. There is no universal formula that applies to all organizations. Some need more technical skills or better technologies. Others need the discipline of better systems and processes. Most need a lot more leadership.

Finding the Right Balance

For more in-depth reading about balancing management and leadership, review the first chapter of The Leader’s Digest here. Or you can browse through a selection of excerpts and articles here.