The High Performance Balance

The Performance Triangle depicts the balance between the three critical success factors of any team or organization. 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.

The most common weakness, however, is in leadership. The triangle illustrates that a well-balanced organization has leadership at the base. This allows management and technology to serve rather than enslave producers, servers, and customers.

There is no formula to balancing a team or organization’s Performance Triangle. Some need more technical skills or better technologies. Others need the discipline of better systems and processes. Most need a lot more leadership.

Another complicating factor is that needs are easily misidentified. For example, most organizations have communication problems of one kind or another. Often these are seen as leadership issues. Many times they are. But just as often the roots of the problem are intertwined with poor processes, systems, or structure – all of which are management issues.

The Management-Leadership Balance

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.

One key distinction between management and leadership is that we manage things and lead people. Things include physical assets, processes, and systems. People include customers, external partners, and people throughout our team or organization (or “internal partners”). When dealing with things, we talk about a way of doing. In the people realm, we’re talking about a way of being.


Management Leadership
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.

Read more about this topic in Management Vs. Leadership