Management and Leadership

In the late 90’s, I attended the Army’s Primary Leadership Development Course, which was a requirement for promotion to Sergeant. This 4 week course included classes on leading physical fitness training, marching troops, compass and map reading (including a required night land navigation course), and other tasks necessary for leading soldiers in battle. Throughout the courses on leadership, the distinction between a leader and a manager was made clear.  Of course, outside the military, I think most people would say they are synonyms. In the Army, leadership is defined as direct management of troops while management is indirect. What does this mean? It means that a leader directly interacts with his or her subordinates and a manager does not. A leader eats lunch with his team, a manager does not. A leader knows what’s going on in the lives of his team, a manager does not care. I don’t want to infer that management is in some way bad. We need managers – people in positions behind the scenes that move the wheels of an organization. But even more so, we need leaders. We need people who others aspire to be like, a person who inspires his team to great things, an individual that encourages others to be more than they currently are or even think they can become. For a leader, an individual will work extra hours, come in on Saturday, and end up being happy about it! In my entire career as a software engineer, I have found few people that meet these ideals. I’ve seen many managers, but few actual leaders. Indeed, in the software world we see titles like “Director”, or “Scrum Master” – neither one shows any sense of leadership. The title “Scrum Master” would never be chosen by a real leader because it suggests an incredible amount of superiority over the team. Leaders are part of what’s going on. They are doing what they tell others to do. They are protecting the members of their team. They are encouraging their team to do more. They are not above the action, they are an integral part of the action! Aren’t those the people you want to work for? The people you hope to be like? If you want employees to take your business to the next level, employees who are committed to your organization, empower them by ensuring the leaders you pick know how to lead – not just manage – those in their care.

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