Leadership vs. Management — the missing Coaching competency

Coaching competency resolves the “Leadership vs. Management” debate

How adding a Coaching competency to the Leadership vs. Management debate creates a much needed synergy

A big problem I see when talking to many business owners, senior executives, managers, and others is a belief in that the old “Leadership vs. Management” dichotomy – with Leadership being good and Management being a necessary evil. You know the old saw: leadership is what is really missing today, because it is about leading “people”; and management is more the administrative function of managing “things”. 

This kind of thinking can be so damaging to your organization’s performance that you can be blinded to the potential for improvement available once this thinking is changed! 

Leadership vs. Management false dichotomy

The Leadership vs. Management false dichotomy

Before we even begin, I must make one thing clear. As anyone actively using creativity will tell you, most dichotomies are false. In fact, that is one of the greatest benefits of understanding how to apply creativity to accelerate innovation: the transformation of seemingly irresolvable problems into workable challenges with effective, practical, and profitable solutions. But I digress.

How do we move beyond this (false) dichotomy of leadership vs. management?

Generally speaking, most people think of management as dealing with “things”. This is a convenient shorthand to remembering that many things need to be managed inside a business: budgets, policies, physical assets, and other tangible objects. (The astute reader will note the choice of verb in the previous sentence!) Managing can even deal with intangible objects such as time, patents, online reputation, etc. This is an area dominated by hands-on skills and technical know-how, usually by hard and fast rules that have “correct” answers.

Leadership, on the other hand, is more closely associated with direction setting, strategic decisioning, and motivating people towards a common goal or purpose. Because leadership is harder to define – often relying on heuristics vs. algorithmics – teaching leadership (and learning it!) has not been easy. Teaching resources (books, videos, etc.) often resort to lists of skills or character traits or use case studies – examples drawn from the military, business, and other fields – to show what leadership is. Sometimes this even becomes a sort-of Zen-like teaching process that focuses on eliminating what leadership is not vs. telling you what it is!

Why is leadership so hard to define? Ignoring anything dealing with direct Human Reources (HR) management (policy setting, disciplinary process, etc.)., leadership not only encompasses everything associated with setting direction, motivation, inspiration, and related fields, it also carries additional associations with everything directly associated with “people”.  This default position arises from how management is defined as dealing with things, i.e. “non-people”. But this forces the leadership competency to try to encompass way too much!

And this is where we get our first glimmer as to how to overcome the dichotomy…

The Coaching Competency

Leadership affects people by affecting the environment in which they operate — change the environment, and you change how people act and behave. But leadership in and of itself rarely touches people interactively.

However, 1-to-1 or 1-to-few interactions do touch people. And these are the realm of coaching.

 

The Synergy between Leadership, Management, and Coaching

The Synergy between Leadership, Management, and Coaching

If you are in doubt as to the definition of coaching, please see the page that discusses directive vs. non-directive coaching. (Don’t worry, more will come on this subject in the future.) But for now, it suffices to say that of all the coaching models out there, the non-directive coaching model is the most powerful for making long-lasting changes in people, simultaneously freeing up their creativity and ensuring organizational learning.

So the coaching competency is the missing key to the leadership vs. management dilemma. Once you understand that the coaching competency encompasses everything associated with interactions in 1-to-1 and 1-to-few — think of teams and small working groups — situations that help people learn, grow, improve, and ultimately perform at their very best, then the leadership competency is left to do what it does best: set direction, motivate, and inspire.

Remember, I am not diminishing the need for leadership. Rather, I am freeing leadership concepts from having to incorporate elements which more appropriately belong within coaching concepts.

Leadership Trust

Once you see the world through the lens of this new tripartite model, so many more things become perfectly clear. For example, consider the following questions:

  • How do managers gain and maintain the trust of their subordinates?
  • How do leaders inspire those that follow them to truly drive for excellence, to achieve great goals?

Without the trust that arises from the true communication that non-directive coaching provides, there will always be an “inexplicable gap” between the leader/manager and those that fall under their authority. Allowing someone to use their creativity to come up with their own solutions is implicitly an act of deep trust in that other person’s abilities and motives.

Thus, leadership trust is built on the foundation of interpersonal trust, and interpersonal trust is built up one conversation at a time between leaders and the individuals who follow them. Not all conversations will build trust – most are merely transactional. But when conversations can affect trust, those in charge must be sure they are aligned with the principles of coaching if they are to avoid eroding or outright losing the trust granted them. 

The best part is that the way to build up trust in the long run also yields improved organizational creativity and learning, the very ingredients that enable massive performance improvement!

(But for that to occur, you must ensure you are using the principles of performance improvement effectively….)

How do you structure your conversations so as to not lose trust? And what does non-directive coaching look like anyway? And what are the principles of coaching or performance improvement?

Call Synergetic Management today and start your journey towards a better future now!

(Note: Please feel free to share your comments below – we are curious about your experiences with this subject. Again, Synergetic Management stands ready to help you get better results, so call us today.)

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