Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

Hmmm, between management and leadership, which hat do I wear right now?

Some say you manage people. I prefer to believe that we manage stuff and lead people. And the reality is that we need to be able to do both. Some tasks will need you to manage and all people will need you to lead, but a leader’s day is not filled exclusively with one role or the other. So, how do you know when to manage and when to lead and when to change hats? These Monday Moment tips will help and make the case for why leading is a part of succeeding.

They Managed Before You Came Along

Believe it or not, those people you lead managed to lead their own lives to some degree right up until the time you became their boss. You may not agree with their level of effectiveness, but the truth is they didn’t crawl out from under some mossy rock the moment you received your promotion. Okay, so all kidding aside, if you attempt to manage their ever waking move, you’ll train them to depend on you. If you instead challenge, encourage, and equip them to do better, be better, become better team members or even better people, you develop future leaders instead of long time followers of your every direction.

People Talk Back

If what you want is a real team and team members who do their job well, take initiative when it’s warranted, and come up with new ideas so you’re not the only one who shows any passion around here, then stop managing the creativity out of those who report to you. People are not objects that simply do what we type in, followed by pressing enter. They are not robots. They are individuals with brains of their own and variations on how they express what comes to mind. Let them express those ideas. Let them talk back and give you feedback. Leaders value that feedback. Manager prefer to keep pressing enter and wonder why that concept seems to continually back fire when they employ it on anything other than their computer.

They Might Teach You

Senior leaders and executives know that part of becoming a better leader is surrounding yourself with those who are smarter than they are. New leaders may find this intimidating and wish to be the smartest person in the room. If that is your position, you are managing a group of individuals. Yet, when you find that to be exhausting, costly, and highly time consuming, make the shift and face the fear of letting go. What can those you lead show you how to do? What can those you lead teach you? Leadership development and leading is not acquired in a day nor fully experienced in a book. It’s a process and usually one that takes a proverbial village. Make your management role one that includes leadership, by managing the tasks alongside those you lead instead of trying to force those you lead to succeed.

When to lead and when to manage is an aspect of timing that has many shades of gray. In high stress and change, we may manage events more and lead people through more emotions. When it’s slow we may lead their development more because there aren’t as many tasks to manage. Which hat you wear when will depend on who or what needs your attention the most. What is doesn’t depend on is what you like doing the most. If you’re a task-master, chances are your leadership could use some work. If you’re a real people person, you might want to examine your numbers, results and follow through. The simple act of being aware of the need for both will improve your leadership skills ten-fold.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


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