Pictures Of How To Manage And Lead At The Same Time

You are trying to manage 1,000 things at once and somebody questions your leadership style. C’mon man! You say to yourself, “Do I really  have to stop everything I’m doing, just to listen to some employee whine and gripe about something neither of us can control or influence?!” Yes, you do, at least sort-of. Leadership is not easy, nor is it always pretty. A key point to understand is when we should manage things versus when we should lead people.

We know both management and leadership are important. I use 4 analogies to clarify the differences – Birds, Ballparks, Brakes, and Bikes.

When we hold a bird, we wrap our fingers around the bird so that our fingers are firm and not easily moved; this keeps the bird from flying around. Yet we also have to be careful not to squeeze too tight, or we risk choking the bird. We must hold our hands around the bird like a safety cage. We give the bird room to move, but not so much room that it can fly away or get hurt. The bird has choices of how to sit in our hands, while we provide a safe and restricted environment.

Think of management and leadership like the foul lines on a baseball diamond. We can’t hit a homerun in foul territory. Leadership guides our ethics and provides the moral compass for our behaviors. In an era where we are asked to stretch and provide nearly impossible results on a monthly and yearly basis, people keep pushing themselves, even stretching the foul lines in order to win. But foul lines are unbending, and if we try to achieve a goal by moving the homerun fence or foul poles, it’s still a foul.

Balancing when to be a manager with when to be a leader is like using brakes on a car. It’s like pumping the brakes while tapping the gas pedal. We are trying to create safe environments for trusting, truthful conversations, while also driving and pushing the team to achieve the nearly impossible expectations of our bosses. The toughest leadership job is selling a plan you don’t agree with to your team. Before you can influence others, you need to persuade yourself first. Use the gas pedal of “I’m sure you can do this” balanced with the brake pedal of “No. There are some things we can do, and some things we can’t.”

Bikes have front wheels (leadership) and rear wheels (management) with gears and chains for torque and processing power. The gears and chains on a bicycle wheel must be synchronized and rigidly intertwined to provide power – that’s management. Leadership is the front steering wheel guiding our path, executing our vision, and providing direction. Leadership takes us to new places and shapes where we are headed.

I think the two wheel analogy is helpful; it reflects the balance required along the way. I also say that the wheels do not need to be the same size. Depending on employee capability and commitment and the lifecycle of the business, we may need more process and a bigger management wheel. Or if machinery is in place – data, evidence, knowledge – and the people are less clear of their purpose or what the bigger picture entails, we may need a bigger leadership wheel.

And you say., “Ok, but I still get it wrong. People and teams are not happy or productive and I feel like I am doing all these things.”

Welcome to art instead of math. Right and wrong don’t really exist in leadership. Leadership is an artform and management is the science and math. Math is mental, intellectually based, and reflects the management of tasks and processes. Accuracy matters! Art is in the eye of the beholder. Leadership is an emotional canvas with colors and textures blending hundreds of times a day. Taking a leadership program is like taking an art class, and it helps turn theory into application. The goal is more about vision, inspiration, commitment, and journey than results.

Being a great manager and great leader at the same time – whoa, it’s like riding a unicycle! It can be done, but it involves falling a lot.

Stay balanced!


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