Pop Quiz! What is the difference between leadership and management? Not a trivial question! Your organization may depend on your answer. Unfortunately, many current leaders, managers, and those aspiring to these roles have not considered this question. Without contrasting both roles, how do you know when you are leading or when you should be managing? You think they are synonymous? You may be hurting your business and your career. Non-trivial consequences.
Here is my perspective: Leadership is the work done between paradigms; management is the work done within paradigms. Simple and straightforward. For years I have been studying Leadership, Management, and Organizations. My library holds hundreds of books from which I can extract many varied definitions of terms we commonly use in business – including leadership and management. In the 1990s I was learning about paradigms and I read two books that helped me frame the concepts of leadership and management: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn and Paradigms by Joel Arthur Barker. It was from Barker’s book that I had my aha! moment when reading the passage describing these roles within the context of paradigms. To this day, these definitions have served me well. Leaders operate between, and managers operate inside, paradigms.
So why is this important? Your business, community, and job are paradigms. Be aware and you’ll see paradigms everywhere. Paradigms are patterns and models of how we believe things are. Left unchecked, the perpetuation of an obsolete paradigm can hinder you. For example, let’s say your job includes executing your organization’s Onboarding Process. It is a process you know well; you run it often. The organization has a high turnover rate, so you seem to always be welcoming new hires. You have an onboarding template. It is a pattern. It is a paradigm. Assume that your Onboarding Process is analyzed, and it is found to be less than optimal. Even though you argue that “we have always done it this way”, it is a paradigm that no longer serves the business. Pop Quiz #2: Do you think changing this process will be easy?
Regardless of your position in the organizational chart, if you are helping innovate from an existing paradigm to a new one (as in the case for the Onboarding Process), you are exercising a leadership role. Ideation. Innovation. Envisioning the future. Once the new paradigm is identified and has gained support, making proper uses of the organization’s resources to implement and maintain the change, is engaging in a management role. Alignment. Effectiveness. Efficiencies. Achieving the mission.
Leaders work with ideas, values, beliefs, influence, and buy-in from stakeholders. Managers deal with finances, processes, risks, and change. Both address organizational culture. Are you a seasoned business owner, executive, boss, or “jefe”? - you can benefit by acting with these concepts in mind. Newcomer to the workforce? - you can create value by first working inside existing paradigms to improve them, and later between paradigms to innovate them. Know the difference. Shift some paradigms. Move ahead!
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Francisco J. Melero
Francisco J. Melero is THCC’s COO. Francisco also operates Melero International, a management consulting firm specializing in performance excellence. Learn about the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (THCC) at www.tucsonhispanicchamber.org. Melero International’s website is www.melerointernational.com.
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