Leadership vs. Management: Breathing Life Back into Business


We need to take a minute and think about breathing life back into business. It should be no surprise that systems and procedures usually precede people and innovation. For over a century now, developed countries have educated very intelligent men and women to become managers. As a result, management is a fantastic set of actions and behaviors which have given us the modern-day corporation.

Yet, keeping the status quo isn’t the answer if progress, agility, and innovation are the goal. Change management, though vitally important, is not the way of the future, at least not without a balanced partnership with leadership, which creates a more effective model to propel a business forward.

Over-managed and under-led

According to research by Harvard Professor Dr. John Kotter, we’ve become over-managed and under-led by a factor of almost 4-to-1 in corporate America.

Change management has been the accepted and understood system for business and has been adhered to for decades. Smooth-running productivity is the goal, and training people to manage tasks and procedures is considered a success within the change management model. With a managerial mindset, change management maintains the status quo, avoids hazards, and rewards smooth-running productivity. Its benefits are far and wide!

The challenge, however, is that management doesn’t move organizations forward, at least not very fast. Instead of propelling forward with innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, change management doesn’t have the skill or insight to navigate complexity and nuance.

The hard-working employee might not realize that they are being over-managed but under-led.

Management deals with familiar business concepts: planning, budgeting, staffing, problem-solving, regulating, and meetings, and many emails hash out the details of these aspects of the business.

Employees work, produce and keep things running efficiently and effectively, hour after hour and day after day. However, management doesn’t necessarily create progress; change management stays focused on creating simplicity out of chaos or a repeatable consistency that is not usually aware of a more significant business model.

A vastly different business model

Though a bit messier, change leadership is a vastly different business model. Leadership doesn’t focus on and celebrate the role held by the leader—being in charge—but supports and is mindful of the people in their charge.

The slight shift in words carries all the meaning of a different mindset. A leader understands they aren’t responsible for the job but responsible for the people doing the job.

Without that understanding, a leader becomes a micro-manager. Like any other skill, leadership can be a learned skill, and the more it’s practiced, the better leader one becomes.

A leader who becomes responsible for the people doing the job well realizes this comes at a high cost. Sacrifice is at the heart of leadership. When everything goes right, a leader sacrifices and gives away all the credit. When things go wrong, a leader takes all the blame and responsibility.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart.

Breathing life into business becomes the flesh-and-blood human they’re leading rather than the robot-like process management-type system enforces. But, of course, adding humans back into business makes it messier.

Still, if guided well, a change leadership-driven business – balancing change leadership and change management – is innovative and without barriers. It encourages vision and strategy, motivates people, removes obstacles to success, allows for buy-in, and activates their gifts and abilities.

With change leadership and management blended evenly, the company will move with agility and speed—which is necessary in a fast-moving world.

Changing the direction of the ship is not an easy task. Change management doesn’t easily give way to change leadership; it must be purposefully practiced, adjusted, and rethought.

Let’s connect if your organization desires to move faster – with less chaos – to achieve success. I work with organizations, CEOs, leaders, teams, and individuals who want to embrace leadership and move forward with speed and agility. I hope to hear from you.