A career in management is a noble aspiration. Yet for many people, confusion reigns around such a career choice. Let me explain...
I frequently get asked to explain the difference between leadership and management. If you are pursuing a career in management, then understanding the distinctions will be a challenge you can become embroiled in for a very long time.
Here are some distinctions I have come across over the years:
- You lead people and you manage things
- Leadership is a decision, not a position
- No one seeks a career in leadership, but many pursue a career in management
- The concept of leadership is embedded in every management role
- Management is a profession that demands you become a strong leader
...and so on. The debate has been going on for decades, and it never abates. This debate often leads to confusion, uncertainty and distraction. It can lead you down a rabbit hole where you can get lost in discussions around largely irrelevant distinctions. Successful managers don't get embroiled in these debates. Instead, here's what they focus on...
The Three Domains of Management
When you pursue a career in management, you will need to master a range of competencies (attitudes, skills and knowledge) and put them to good use within three domains of management practice:
- Daily Management: This is the biggest and most time consuming of the three domains. This concerns itself with "getting the work done" and meeting performance standards around such things as health, safety, quality, schedule, cost and customer service. It also includes establishing daily systems for continuous, incremental improvement to help you and your team meet and raise these standards. The biggest challenge to you as a manager will be getting your team to perform to and raise these standards while upholding certain stated values.
- Crisis Management: This is the least time consuming of the three domains, but the one with the biggest risk factor. You need to master the competency of predicting/preventing crises and/or mitigating their effects. This requires valor.
- Strategic Management: This is perhaps the least clear or "fuzziest" of the three domains. As a manager, you will be challenged to think strategically, i.e. think longer term and come up with ways to reinvent the way you conduct business, in response to changing social, economic, political, environmental, technological and market demands. This requires vision.
To succeed in each of these domains means that you will need to master certain core management competencies. These can be summarized as follows:
Planning, organizing, scheduling, delegating, coaching, problem-solving, decision making, conflict resolution, team-building, cross-functional team collaboration, group/meeting facilitation, values clarification and time management. Keep in mind that this is the breeding ground for team and organizational culture, which will heavily influence how successful you and your team are in managing the other two domains...
Crisis and Risk Evaluation, Crisis Planning and Prevention, Crisis Identification, Crisis Communication, Crisis Mitigation, Crisis Resolution.
Strategic Analysis, Strategic Planning, Strategic Metrics, Strategic Alignment, Change Management, Strategic Reviews.
A career in management has its rewards, including higher earning potential, helping others succeed, and having a greater impact.
Focus your attention on the development of these core management competencies in these three domains and you will succeed. Of course, you could use the term "leadership" in place of "management" here, but then we're back down that rabbit hole again...