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The term leadership and management is still widely misconstrued, hence the title leadership is widely misconstrued – logical huh? Well, I’m the last person to tell you that I’ve got it down perfectly, but in a nutshell, the problem many companies still face is what true leadership is all about.

When you hear the term, most people associate leadership with motivational talks or leaders that inspire fire within, and sure that is one component of leadership, however, the problem is that when most people think of leadership, the image that comes to mind is actually management – people simply telling others what to do.

Management in most companies is a self-perpetuating role, keeping people busy and believing that the organization is progressive, while in reality things ultimately stay the way they are – a continuous cycle. It’s more about oneself than the whole. Give that some thought.

Leadership on the other hand is bringing people along the journey. Moving them from the current place towards new horizons. I’d be lying if I said I’ve always done that, but for the most part that is a component that is a strong part of me. Being a leader is more than just delegating, talking to people, and asking them what “I” could do for them. It’s about a progressive journey, showing them the tangible results of one’s own actions.

Here are a few things that I believe sets apart the two – without diving into all that much detail.

Clear Vision

This is the absolute first. A clearly defined strategy, shaped in part by those who will need to execute it. My vision for a product is not the same as yours. I’ll need to bring you along my journey as a leader, focus on accountability through a culture of purpose, one that embraces employees’ talents with myself being the visionary leading from the front (This doesn’t mean it’s about me – what it means is that I’m not the boss. I am part of the team.)

People First

The problem with management is greed. Most managers simply want the power (hungry for the title of “Director” or “Head of”), the money, the large teams, and the capability to feel in control of everyone and everything. That isn’t leadership. It’s not about who earns the biggest paycheck, has the most benefits, or pivoting results to drive the next career move. Leadership is about people. It’s about encouraging others and pulling out the talents within them.

Leadership is not just about asking, “How can I help you?” – I believe most managers think this one question makes them a leader. Action-oriented leadership is about finding the right questions by being aware and curious about the people you work with. In today’s business environment it’s no longer about having the corner office – leading is about being immersed, proactive, and thoughtful.

Grow People

Putting people first is one thing, growing them is another. This one has been on my list for a long time. The issue here is that we as humans get intimidated when we feel that our strengths are put down through others excelling beyond our own capabilities. This is true, especially in management. No one wants to look bad among peers, towards those above oneself, or in front of their teams. Most managers surround themselves with people that will help propel them up the chain – not really caring where anyone else really goes. Ultimately, it’s greed.

If we had more leaders who set strategies people actually believe in, select amazing talent, and were not afraid to empower them through their own development, reducing roadblocks and thinking of the company as a whole rather than just their career, more companies would achieve a damn lot more.

Leaders are not afraid of those better than them. They empower them. They understand that together they can propel more. Bill Gates had Paul Allen, Steve Jobs had Wozniak. You don’t always need a partner in crime, but empowering others to even grow beyond oneself means legacy.

Company culture

The way employees interact with each other is going to be a large part of what makes or breaks companies in the long run. What I personally mean, in a nutshell, is most companies come out of this notion of having company values – honestly who gives a crap. It’s not about a company’s values when it comes to leadership. You can sell that to shareholders and the media, but honestly what company has a value that says – “our goal is to pollute the world” or “treat most customers with dignity and respect”…they are all very similar.

What matters in regard to company culture boils down to what I would call company behaviors – what we as a company want for and from our employees. This is essential to a positive, motivated, driven, and authentic community.

There is a significant difference between the two.

  • Behaviors = actions
  • Values = words

Give that some thought.

Ask For “Why”

Look, we all need to work. We all work to live a certain lifestyle. We all want more, more, more. But leadership is not about your next career move at all costs. Leadership is about modeling one’s career to positively affect other humans through their actions. It’s about being inquisitive and having the simple philosophy of not lighting a fire under someone but within someone. Getting a team to do more not because they have to, but because they want to is a big difference when it comes to a company’s cause and overall mission.

Know That You Don’t Kow

Lastly, leadership is about making bold moves. Looking for new ideas and approaches. We all come from and bring with us experiences in life. We believe that the ways we learned things or our own set of capabilities or our picture of the world are probably the most (or perhaps only) right way to get things done and management often translates this into how they take action, but leadership is about knowing what you don’t know. Embracing what you don’t understand. Asking uncomfortable questions, regardless of how it “makes you look.”

Break out of your day-to-day, stretch your thinking, eliminate fears and feel empowered while empowering others to see that you’re only human too. Embrace what you don’t know, learn, share what you do know, explore, ponder and collaborate – then passionately take the risk, understand the consequences and move on.

The problem is that management always feels like they need to have answers. We need to fulfill every set of KPIs. We need full operational control, at all times. Leadership is about ensuring we have operational control (business is not the same as a charity), but letting others know that “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw – this refers to oneself, not the fact that a manager brings in their own ideas and visions and strategies to “create” some kind of change.

In Closing

To close this post off, I guess what I wanted to divulge in a nutshell is that leadership is about inspiring and taking action, and by action, I mean not simply being busy with a bunch of new ideas, but being authentically purposeful and bringing everyone along the worthwhile journey to the next horizon.

Let me know your thoughts!

Stay inspired. Be inspired. Inspire others!

Make it happen.