In my career, I have fulfilled a variety of management and leadership roles. At MCI, I led multiple groups across the organization, and I felt each role taught me something new about how to be a great manager to my team and a strong leader in the business.
It’s a common misconception that a leader is automatically a manager or vice versa. At a high level, leaders are the brave innovators, making the big – and sometimes bold – decisions behind the scenes, and managers are the faithful allies, rallying the troops on the ground.
It is important for managers to follow the process and verify the feasibility of the leader’s ambitions.
Now, as CEO of Northridge, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide array of verticals and organizational teams and can recognize key traits associated with successful leaders and successful managers. However, I think there’s an often-overlooked conversation about the necessity of both managers and leaders, their relationship and how each role can work together to be more successful.
Without a doubt, there is a hierarchy of decision-making power for leaders, and with that power comes great responsibility. Sometimes, those decisions may be met with a certain amount of resistance. Managers and leaders need to recognize and embrace the natural friction that will arise between their roles.
Here are four ways in which management and leadership can work better together:
- Checks and Balances: As innovative, optimistic, or savvy as leaders can be, there may be a certain amount of ambiguity that goes along with their vision and goals. It is important for managers to follow the process and verify the feasibility of the leader’s ambitions.
- Of Equal Importance: An organization top heavy with leaders may generate a lot of innovative ideas but lack clarity, prioritization, or process to bring them to fruition. An organization with too many managers may get so mired in the day-to-day details that it will lack vision and may miss important opportunities for growth.
- Partner with Different Skill Sets: As leaders, we develop and foster teams with different strengths and weaknesses. Both managers and leaders can discover gaps in skill sets that require outside expertise. Don’t be afraid to raise a flag and say, “I need some additional perspective.”
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
- Embrace Your Strengths: Many people at senior levels operate as both manager and leader. Instead of worrying whether colleagues see you as a manager or a leader, it’s more important to be a person upon whom others know they can rely to solve the right problem for the business.
As leaders, we have to be comfortable making decisions and taking risks that managers and other colleagues won’t automatically agree with. Competent managers will have questions and, while you don’t have to give out all the answers, your team deserves a thoughtful and direct approach.
As a manager, align expectations on the myriad of initiatives by prioritizing in order to deliver the biggest impact. Be the person others can rely on to get the job done and, in my experience, the natural progression in the company will follow. As Stephen Covey said (and I agree), “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”