Much has been said about the differences between leaders and managers: being able to understand the differences between the two is vital for any startup founder. While it’s likely that founders and initial employees at seed or early stage companies will occupy multiple, overlapping roles, this structure can’t – and shouldn’t – last forever.
Geoffrey Bellman writes that management is about getting things done: it encompasses the processes, data, organization and limitations of a company’s output. A manager takes responsibility for the functionality of the business and works to improve it.
A little harder to grasp is the concept of leadership which, according to Harvard Professor John Kotter, is more about vision, innovation and opportunity. Contrary to popular belief, leadership is not a sum of personal characteristics, but rather a selection of behaviors that guides others toward a common goal.
Two Different Approaches; Two Important Roles
Kotter notes that using the terms interchangeably is a common mistake, and expecting someone with managerial skills to also act as a leader (and vice versa) won’t always work out the way you want.
There is also a common misconception that there is some sort of hierarchy in place, with leaders, as the “big picture people,” standing on a level above managers, who tend to be more tactical. From its definition, however, we see that a leader is a type of person that can instill influence at any level of the company.
The greatest mistake a startup can make is to neglect identifying and fostering leadership in every employee. This doesn’t mean putting everyone in a position of authority or supervision over others: instead, it means empowering individual team members to lead others in ideas, innovation and focus on the big picture. Encouraging leadership in startup employees can only build upon the momentum first gained by the founders.
Here’s what some of the experts are saying about leadership and management:
Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant and author
Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. – Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence”
Management is running processes, systems, people and functions. The more efficient, organized and insightful you are, the better you are at managing. Leadership is inspiring people. The more open-minded you are, the more vision and self-awareness you have, and the higher your integrity, the better you are at leading. – Ellen Vrana, writer
Feature Photo Credit: Nasa HQ Photos via Flickr