Management Balancing Leadership

Management is Doing Things Right and Leadership is Doing Right Things. ~ Peter Drucker

Many others have further described management as more task focused versus leadership as more people focused.

Which is more important? The answer is both. It depends if we need compliance or commitment. Growth or control. Engagement or Sustainability. Making mistakes and having failures are critical for learning, and yet mistakes related to judgement, ethics, harassment, fraud, or other policies may not be survivable. We truly can only learn from those mistakes we survive. For example, if mountain climbers learn a lot they don’t come home. Management matters in equal measure to leadership.


The importance of leadership involves failing forward. “Failure and invention are inseparable twins.” ~ Jeff Bezos

The importance of management involves not failing backward. “I never promoted anyone for doing great paperwork. I did say goodbye to a few for not doing paperwork.” ~ Drew Parks  


Management and leadership roll together like the wheels of a bicycle. We need both. The rear wheel is full of the gears and chains and supports the management of the bicycle – including the power, torque, speed and braking. The front wheel is responsible for creating the path and the vision, it steers and leads the direction of the bicycle.

Management was originally a term used extensively in the 1800’s for how we ‘managed’ horses. And until 1970, we seemed to manage people just like we managed horses – treating our employees as variable expenses required to build products. Today we lead people in an intellectual property era. Calculated failure is the risk and courage required to build a molecule, a company, or almost anything new, even a friendship. Building trust, professionalism, and character, which some say are born qualities, can be developed, measured, and improved. We’ve all erred in communicating and hurt a relationship. So, it’s important that it’s measured!

Several years ago, when proposing a new plan to a senior leader, I was asked which success factor was most critical.. I said it was the execution and delivery  of expectations. He said, I think that’s #2 and that #1 would be building a process and system for sustainability. He was right. Since all the energy we place on activity and doing things is creating something longer lasting than us – a legacy. And that is most valuable. Longevity is tied to management systems in order to support key activities and successes. Management is a doing job while leadership is a thinking job.

The people side of our personal and professional lives is perceived as more difficult to measure; therefore, we are not clear on what to expect and so we can’t inspect it. We may not be taking the time and effort to plan how the emotional dynamics of engagement and culture can, and should, be measured. We have so many other hard measures of systems, data, and processes already coming at us, so we gravitate toward that being the only thing that’s measureable.

Waiters and waitresses can be measured on friendliness and nurses on measures of caring –  knowing people’s names, the number of times they have visited, the amount of time between phone calls, or patient satisfaction. Hard metrics are less valuable or usable in measuring leadership.   “

Measuring our management is in the spreadsheet; measuring our leadership is in the team values and results they produce after we are gone.” ~ Jim Trunick

Management AND Leadership – Bring it!


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