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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Leadership or Management? Who Cares?

Recently I participated in a session about leadership experiences which drew from the rich experience of the people in the room, not merely a lecture by the person in front of the room.

The facilitator would set up a business situation and asked the audience of executives to share their experiences. I have found that listening to what others have faced and overcome is quite instructive and real.

A colleague sitting beside me grumbled at the conclusion of each topic - “that's not leadership – it's management.” In his eyes, none of the eight topics discussed that day passed muster as addressing leadership.

Although it was distracting to hear his continuing negative comments, I came to realize a couple of enlightening elements about leadership.

  • There is a very fine line separating a management action and a leadership action when trying to catalog the act. But this is like trying to determine how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – who knows and does it matter? Was the solution successful? Did it advance the organization toward the vision (goals); did it create results? If so, Great! Next time the situation comes up, let's consider using it again. Adding a name-tag to the action adds no value whatsoever.
  • My grumbling colleague spent much energy in slotting the activities, but took nothing useful away from the meeting. I heard about experiences and related results and took away many nuggets of useful information about better leadership practices. Two people, sitting side by side with vastly different outcomes.

Following the meeting, my business partner asked me – 'what was the best thing you got from this meeting?'

After a moment's thought, I summed it up as follows: leadership can be learned, but it can't be taught.

Do you find that thin line between what's leadership and what's management important? How so?
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