There’s been a lot written in recent years about the differences (and parallels) between leadership and management. Organisations tend to muddy the waters somewhat by embedding management terms in titles and position descriptions – so managers could be forgiven for believing that leadership is the domain of the ‘senior leadership team’ as defined by the organisation’s CEO or Board.

In a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Vineet Nayar wrote:

‘Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.’

The American activist Ralph Nader once said: ‘The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.’

If that intention resonates with you, then the opportunity in pondering the differences between a leader and manager is to understand that, regardless of your title or position description, you must wear both hats.

I was reflecting recently on some of the work we do at Magical Learning; particularly our leadership programs where we work with clients to build genuine leadership capability throughout their organisation. It occurred to me that, while we often use the phrase ‘growing leaders’ in our conversations and programs, we don’t always explore just what that means for you as a leader/manager.

If you decided to grow a tree in your garden, there are certain immutable requisites for that tree to flourish: planting the tree, watering it, perhaps fertilising or adjusting the soil composition if necessary. You would also help the young tree deal with pests and other threats until it was capable of managing that by itself. If rainfall was scarce, you’d continue to water the tree until its root system was sufficiently deep/extensive for it to thrive even in drier months.

While humans are, perhaps, more complex beings than trees, I feel the analogy is useful. If you accept that your true purpose as a leader/manager is to grow leaders around you, then what is needed to achieve that?

How do you ‘tend’ your garden at work? What are you doing each day to help your team thrive and grow to become leaders?

  • Get to know who you are leading/managing; how much do you know about each of your team that has nothing to do with work?
  • Acknowledge the gift that is your role in their lives – you have such a special opportunity to help them grow, because when that happens you also thrive?
  • Help them be curious – about work, yes – but also learning as a function of living?
  • Make it safe for them to fail?
  • Openly value the unique attributes each of them brings into your team and your life?

I’d love to hear your gardening tips and techniques for growing a magical team in your workplace.