Management vs Leadership and Where We Go From Here

About a month ago I had the pleasure of presenting a panel with Jer Lance (@Jer_) discussing the differences between being a leader and a manager. Jer has graciously posted the audio of our talk on his blog. (A word of caution - thanks to the informality of the event and, well, it being Jer and I, there is a stunning amount of profanity casually thrown about during this talk.)

Jer and I chatted together after the discussion and we also talked to a number of audience members who were kind enough to provide some feedback. The feeling from both the presenter's perspective and the audience's was that the talk was solid, it was helpful and it was interesting. The content was what the attendees wanted to hear, and we answered a lot of questions brought up by the group.

I don't point these things out to pat myself on the back. The fact of the matter is much of what we covered wasn't on the outline that Jer and I had prepared. If you listen to the audio, you'll hear a number of times when we try and drag the conversation back to what we had planned to talk about. But, as Jer points out, the conversation was a good one because of the deviations, not in spite of them. As he says in his post "This resulted in, from my perspective, a much better and much more interesting panel."

When I took a step back I realized the evolution of the panel was analogous to its subject, the hallmarks and actions of leaders vs managers. Good leadership, in essence, is what happened during that discussion. We went in with a defined direction, a prepared road map intended to impart our knowledge and opinions on the topic at hand. But once we were in the thick of it, it became apparent that our goal - to provide a valuable talk for the attendees - wasn't going to happen if we continued to plow through and stick to the plan. Would the attendees have learned something from us if we had? Sure. And there are situations when that is the best path forward. But in this case what everyone got out of it was a richer and more satisfying experience with greater participation and learning because we didn't grab the topic by the throat and hold it down until it succumbed to our will. The environment, and the presenters, allowed for a more interactive discussion, which in turn led to greater understanding and growth in the "team" - the audience.

A manager tells people what to do. They set forth a plan and then stick to that plan, no matter what. A leader listens, takes feedback and lets their team participate in the direction they are going. When you cultivate the skills and experience of your team, they help to lift some of the burden of the planning from your shoulders. They then contribute their knowledge and skills, willingly, on the path to the collective goal. It becomes a common direction, one that everyone is invested in seeing through, instead of merely following orders.

But for us to trust in the collective we have to grow our teams, not in numbers, but in experience, knowledge and confidence. We must go further than allowing growth and happiness within our teams, we must foster it. By helping them to be the best they can be we create a symbiotic relationship where we help them succeed and they do the same for us. All while getting shit done.

And that, from where we stand right now, will be a major focus of this blog. There are a number of very good management and leadership resources out there - blogs, books, speakers and so forth. Many of them focus on what you can do to be a better leader, what areas you need to improve on for yourself. They are filled with solid advice and shouldn't be ignored.

But a leader isn't a leader if they have no one to lead. We can't forget to recognize the actions that we should take to make our teams and organizations better in addition to what we need to do as individuals. By and large, that will be the perspective we take here. Less you, more we and us and them.

So here is what you can expect - in addition to posts and reviews from myself, you'll get the perspective of other leaders (whether or not they are managers) in guest posts. We'll do some reviews of different leadership books, some old, some new, but always from the view point on how these books will help you help your teams. And we'll also tell you about interesting events, both upcoming and ones we've attended. I'm sure, over time, we'll evolve what this blog contains, too.

And in the spirit of good leadership, if you have a subject you're interested in hearing about, please send me an email and let me know.


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