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Management Isn’t Leadership

Patrick Nelson, September 21, 2015


Management Isn't Leadership
Leadership is about people and our ability to influence outcomes and inspire others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.

Regardless of whom I speak to in my travels, I always hear about processes, rules, regulations and policies that come from management to help promote efficiency. “We’re challenged to innovate, but there’s so many things we can’t do!” And I can empathize – it’s hard to be creative when you feel constrained.

This is when I remind them of the difference between managerial responsibilities and leadership opportunities. Management is about things – data, processes, equipment, etc. Managers perform their roles within pretty strict guidelines so they can do what they’re supposed to do: Manage the business. But management isn’t leadership.

Leadership is about people and our ability to influence outcomes and inspire others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. There’s no cookbook that gives you perfect measurements on how to lead others. As a leader, how can we influence and inspire when we are handcuffed to processes?

We can start by delivering feedback in a way that inspires others to grow and improve; however, we must also be credible to others or our guidance won’t be taken seriously. To increase our credibility, we should maintain all of our commitments, exceed all standards, and hold others accountable. As a leader, we must also recognize the need for innovation and creativity to overcome challenges. We do this by increasing our self-awareness and recognizing when we get stuck in a fixed mindset and how to exercise our growth mindset instead.

If you’ve ever felt boxed in by all the rules, regulations, and policies at your job, shift your focus away from your management roles and think about how you can influence and inspire creatively. Here are some ideas:

  • Separate your management responsibilities from leadership opportunities; we manage things and we lead people.
  • Consider all the people you work with and around and how you build influence with them.
  • Focus on things you can do, not things you cannot do; a growth mindset will help lead you towards success.
  • Strive to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to others to help inspire them to innovate and create.
  • Others hold your credibility; build your credibility by maintaining your commitments, meeting all standards, and holding others accountable.

The only limit to your ability to lead others is you. Regardless of your job title, when you exercise fundamental leadership behaviors you can start being an agent for innovation and creativity.

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