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For a long time, I wondered why so many people are such bad leaders. And the answer, I believe, has everything to do with this one simple thing: they don’t know the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’.

So let’s explore that difference, so you can be an amazing leader, instead of a bad one…

Defining Management

Management is focused on getting things done and on getting them done in an efficient and effective way.  The term ‘manager’ exudes structure, focus and dedication to the result.  In businesses, managers follow procedures, make sure everything is done on time, and within the budget. It’s s step-by-step approach to business that you can intellectually study and learn. And become really good at.

Defining Leadership

Leadership is about the capacity to lead, and to lead is to to guide someone or something along a way, especially by going in advance. A leader is someone who has commanding authority or influence (all definitions from 

Leadership is about guiding, and about the authority and influence you bring. When I explored ‘guiding’ it’s interesting that the examples all relate to voluntarily chosen things, like a guide at the museum, the coach as a guide etc.  Of course not all leadership is chosen actively (think about military leadership) but it does seem to me that leadership includes choosing the person who leads, by the people who are being lead.

Leadership is also dependent on the authority or influence of the leader, which point to their personality and their behaviour. It’s clear that leadership is a personal thing that you need to be accepted into. You cannot really force leadership onto someone, and even though a person is in your chain of command, they do not have to see you as their leader (instead, they might just view you as a commanding officer).

This brings me to a saying I love:

You manage things, and you lead people.

And I think that sums it up nicely.

Becoming a great leader

I believe that many people are crappy leaders – and don’t really improve – because they focus their attention and their ‘leadership development’ on skills that are actually part of management, like project planning, delegating, time management etc.

To improve their leadership, they should focus on elements that strengthen who they are as a person, come to grips with their fears and reactive tendencies, and improve their abilities to engage in healthy conflict.

Rosalie Puiman is the founder of The Sovereign Leader and the author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution. She works with executives and founding teams to bring forth effective, impactful and purpose-driven success.

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