Few topics in organization development have garnered more air time than the discussion of what constitutes leadership and management. More specifically, how and when leadership and management overlap and how and when they do not. We seek to understand the drivers of these separate but related skills so that we can master them to achieve success.
I am certain that this discussion can never be fully satisfied and am equally confident that my words here will not settle the debate. Nonetheless, I have a view and insight that has evolved during my career as a business leader and executive coach that sheds light on this discussion from a different perspective.
I am convinced that the best strategy to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager begins with a look in the rear view mirror. I know what you're thinking. You can't move forward while looking backward. Bear with me for a moment.
Think about the events of your life to this point. Chances are that you have been the recipient of sterling examples of leadership and management excellence. Perhaps it was the teacher who encouraged you to dream big and overcome barriers in a way you didn't know was possible. Maybe it was your first boss who introduced you to the power of project planning or process improvement. It might have been a Scout leader, who taught you about perseverance at the same time you earned that last merit badge.
Now take it one step further. Think about how you processed their messages. I assert that most of the effective management lessons took root in your head, specifically the frontal lobes of your brain. The leadership moments, however, landed south of your neck, in your gut.
Of course we use our brains, center of rational thought, as we process charts, numbers, information, systems, processes and programs. We use this thinking organ to learn how. But we use our "second brain" as our gut has been called, with its hundred million nerve cells, to feel why. To lead people is to inspire them to behave in ways that they have not previously. To dare things they dared not a moment earlier. People need to feel led. In the most beautiful leadership moments, the feeling moves from our gut to our heart.
Once you know the processing organ for the different leadership and management moments, the path to increased effectiveness is clear. Work the head to manage, and the gut to lead. Do not expect people to feel why by looking at numbers, or to learn how through a well delivered speech. Tailor your need to a message and your message to the right processing organ. Success will follow.