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Leadership and Management: Growth vs Stability

People often use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. While they do overlap, they also have separate meanings. In some cases, leadership implies almost the exact opposite of management.

In particular, management is about making things work efficiently the way they are, while leadership is about looking into the future to plan where to go next. Management is about maintenance and functionality, while leadership is about growth and development.

Organizations need strong leaders and good managers, and those roles frequently overlap. Good managers can lead their departments into a new future. Good leaders understand how their company currently works, and what can be done to make it work better.

Goals And Tasks of Management

Managers exist to make an organization run properly. They deliver predictability, functionality, and efficiency. Common managerial tasks include:
  • Setting strategic goals
  • Setting budgets
  • Delivering performance reviews
  • Coordinating tasks

In a way, managers work best when you can’t see them. In a perfect world, they would simply keep the company running without hiccup.

Managers are sort of like the homeostasis mechanism in the human body. They exist to maintain equilibrium, and to keep the organization on the right path.

Management quality can make or break a company. According to a Gallup poll, companies fail to choose the right managers 82% of the time, but having a team of talented managers can lead to 147% higher earnings. Choosing who to promote is one of the most important kinds of decisions that a company makes.

Goals and Tasks of Leadership

If managers exist to make sure things work properly as they are, leaders are there to take the organization into the future. Leaders have to keep an eye out for how the environment is changing, and then signal to the team how to respond.

In another article, I discussed several attributes of good team leaders.

Leadership is intangible, and depends on empathy, social awareness, and soft skills.

This makes the tasks of leadership more general, visionary, and abstract than the tasks of management. Leaders are responsible for:
  • Envisioning goals
  • Establishing values
  • Unifying their organization

The role of a leader is therefore more visible than that of a manager. Leaders exist to be seen as a figurehead.

If managers are the homeostasis mechanism, leaders act more like the conscious mind itself, looking out into the future and deciding what changes need to be next.

Where Leadership and Management Intersect

Of course, the leadership / management dichotomy is much more a spectrum than it is a binary. This spectrum ranges from the concrete, equilibrium-seeking tasks of management to the abstract, future-seeking tasks of leadership. But there is a lot of room in the middle!

Managers have to act as leaders, because reality is always in flux. Keeping your department operating smoothly means trying new strategies and developing new techniques. The best managers act as leaders of their own teams, helping to guide them into becoming better versions of themselves.

Leaders have to act as managers, in order to bring their visions into concrete realities. A good leader has to communicate effectively with their organization, which includes explaining what concrete goals, tasks, and systems they should pursue.

What Makes a Great Manager vs a Great Leader

Since there is so much overlap between both roles, many characteristics apply to both. Both great managers and leaders need to have good organizational and communication skills. They also need to know and understand their organization’s operations in and out, and have a strong feel for company culture.

The difference lies in the emphasis of their qualities. Good managerial qualities are more narrow and focused, while good leadership qualities are more diffuse and flexible.

Great managers tend to be meticulous and organized. They know their team incredibly well, and have an eye set on their goals.

Great leaders tend to be empathetic and communicative. They know their entire organization, and have an eye set on the changing realities both inside and outside their organization.

The Need for Managers and Leaders

Strong organizations have great managers and great leaders.

Without leadership, an organization can get bogged down in bureaucratic processes, focused entirely on inputs, reaching certain metrics, and doing everything the same way they did it before.

Without management, an organization has no way to execute an idea. There would be no commitment to fixed goals, and guide rails like budgets and KPIs would be thrown out the window.

Instead, what organizations need is a healthy balance between growth and maintenance. When there is a presence of both strong leaders and strong managers, organizations can adequately meet the demands of the present and of the future.

Teal Organization: How JetRockets balances leadership and management.

Since 2020, JetRockets has been organized as a Teal Organization. What this means is that we don’t have strict hierarchies or top-down orders. Instead, workers and teams self-organize to manage and lead themselves. They are encouraged to bring their own unique talents and abilities to the table to make the greatest impact they can make.

Instead of a single source of control steering the ship, leadership and management are distributed throughout the company. Every employee has a say in how things should be run. And every employee has a say in how the company should be run in the future.

More than just having a say in the matter, all of our employees actively create the future of JetRockets through their actions. Management and leadership are inseparable from all of our day-to-day activities.

We believe that this is a great way to organize our efforts as software developers. While Teal might not work for every industry, it helps us ensure the best results for our clients. It gives us the flexibility and coordination we need to align our goals with yours, to produce the outcome you need.

If you are interested in developing a web app or website for your organization, feel free to start a conversation.
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