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Cynder Sinclair: Are You a Leader, a Manager or Both?

Books are full of comparisons of leadership and management. You’ve heard the tired saying that managers do things right and leaders do the right thing. And you’ve heard the other adage that we lead people but manage things. Some think the title or job description determine whether someone is a leader or a manager. It’s not that easy. Deciding how to be a leader or a manager is much more complex than trying to fit yourself into these tired maxims.

Different Areas of Emphasis

Leadership and management do have specific focus areas. Leaders concentrate on creating the vision and motivating others to achieve it by inspiring each person to do his/her best. Leadership is about leading by example, empowering others and creating a healthy environment for success. Leaders attend to:

» Vision, motivation, inspiration and persuasion
» Building relationships and high functioning teams
» Listening, counseling, coaching and mentoring

Managers focus more on work and tasks. They are concerned with resources: human, time, financial and equipment. Management is all about bringing the vision to reality using a clearly defined road map. Managers apply themselves to:

» Planning, budgeting and organizing
» Controlling, coordinating and managing time
» Decision making and problem solving

Nonprofit Leaders Wear Multiple Hats

On the surface, the distinction between leadership and management seems fairly clear cut. But these differences are actually two sides of the same coin. In reality, most people spend time in both domains — especially in the nonprofit sector where many employees play multiple roles. It's better to think of leadership and management as functional areas rather than as individual jobs, regardless of the title. In fact, the most effective performers know when to lead and when to manage. They excel at toggling between the two.

We need both. The most visionary leader in the world won’t accomplish anything without a clear plan and diligent execution, even if he or she has the title of CEO. On the other hand, the best technician or strategist can’t get people to achieve goals if they aren’t inspired by a compelling vision.

The best teams recruit members who are competent at both functions. Some people, of course, seem to be natural leaders and others know how to get the job done. Effective teams have a balance of the two. Effective workers move between the two modalities.

Situation-Focused Leadership Is Most Effective

Being able to tailor your approach to the situation and the individuals involved is the key to success. Knowing how to inspire others by calling them to higher ground is critical when it’s time for change. And being able to lay out a clear plan of action and hold others accountable will ensure ultimate success. Victory demands both.

The first step toward putting together a world class team is to understand the unique roles of leader and manager and to acknowledge that both are necessary to achieve goals. The next step is to identify natural strength areas within each employee or team member. Determine who has the gift of leadership and who is more inclined toward management. Notice those rare individuals who are good at both. Form your team or staff by intentionally combining people with a balance of these two functionalities.

Moses and Joshua as Leaders and Managers

An article in the Harvard Business Review pointed to the story of Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures to explain the difference between leadership and management. Moses was the charismatic leader who inspired the Israelites to leave Egypt and trek to the so-called Promised Land. The people responded, following him through the desert for 40 years. But when their destination was finally in sight, Moses called on Joshua to devise a plan to transport the people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Moses knew he was a leader, not a manager. He knew Joshua possessed excellent management skills. Joshua eagerly embraced the challenge and the people finally arrived at their cherished site.

It appears that Moses and Joshua were both accomplished leaders and managers. Leading everyone through treacherous terrain while keeping their morale up required Moses to call upon his leadership and management skills. But he excelled at the main leadership traits like inspiration, vision, and persuasion.

Even though Joshua’s strength lay in his management competencies like planning, organizing, and decision making, he also had to use leadership to encourage his people as they traversed into unknown land.

Build Your Nonprofit Team with Intention

If you are leading a nonprofit organization, choose your team wisely. Understand the differences between and the values of the two key organizational modalities: leadership and management. Remember that people usually have natural strengths in one functionality or the other — use each person at his/her point of strength. Watch for those exceptional individuals who are proficient in both areas. Build your team with intentionality.

Most of all, understand that you must analyze your own skills to lead effectively. If you are strong in leadership but not a good manager, be sure to have strong managers on your team — and trust them to do their work. If your strength is management and you find it challenging to inspire others with a compelling vision, choose someone on your team to play that role.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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