• Glenn Price

What Is The Difference Between Leadership & Management?

Ask this question of Google and there are just under 300 million responses. We have a simple one. The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders inspire people to follow them and managers have people who work for them. We believe everyone has the potential to be an extraordinary leader but often we wait too long to begin developing leaders.

At what age should we start developing leaders?

We analysed data on roughly 17,000 leaders for whom we had precise data regarding their age at the time they participated in their company's leadership development process. It was no surprise to discover that the average age of participants was 42. Less than 5% of all participants were under the age of 27. Supervisors within these firms were typically waiting 9 years after being asked to lead teams before any formal leadership training was provided.

The Advantages of Starting Earlier

Easier To Learn

Most readers can identify with the advantages of learning a skill at a younger versus an older age. If you go to a tennis club and watch the younger players who have had excellent instruction at a young age, and then visit a typical public court and watch young people playing who have had no instruction, the differences are obvious. A few hours or days of instruction and correct practice have created different levels of skill. If we want extraordinary leaders, why not begin to find those interested in becoming effective leaders and help them accelerate their progress.

Avoids Acquiring Bad Habits

I ski with my children who learned to ski at early ages. This is in marked contrast to my experience of learning at the age of 31. They learned the fundamentals very early and well. They didn’t pick up any bad habits. Instructors pushed them to move to more difficult slopes while maintaining good form. As you would suppose, there is a huge difference in skill level.

Longer Time To Practice

You may have heard it said that “practice makes perfect.” In reality, however, that is totally incorrect. Practicing bad habits ingrains them all the more. Simply practicing does not automatically create excellent skills. Go back to a sports analogy for a moment. Many aspiring golfers visit a local driving range to hit a bucket of balls. They leave feeling that they have done something to help them become a better golfer. Contrast that person with the aspiring golfer who goes to a range on which he can draw a circle 20 feet in diameter. The aspiring golfer then moves back a short distance and proceeds to hit balls until 80% land in the circle. Then the golfer moves further back, takes a different club and does the same thing. That is deliberate, focused and productive practice. Perfect practice makes perfect performance.

The Organisation Benefits From Improved Skills

Of necessity, the young supervisor is practicing leadership from day one. She is in the role, but often in the “hitting a bucket of balls” mode, rather than deliberate, focused practice. From the day this supervisor was put in that position, habits began to be formed. Attitudes were being created. Management practices began to coalesce. Would it not be in the organisation’s and the individual’s best interest to begin that process the moment they are selected for that position?

Our Proposal

1. Continue to emphasise promotions from within.

Create programmes that identify leadership potential and then provide the development required.

2. Focus more on Generation Y & the Millennials

One of the stereotypes we have about the youngest generation is that they are more focused on themselves and less focused on company objectives. After analysing the data on these different groups we learned that the Generation Y group had the highest scores when it came to driving for results with Millennials topping the charts for innovation.

So what is the difference between leadership and management? Rather than a debate we recommend that you provide leadership development to anyone that demonstrates the potential. The naysayers will argue that the individual in whom you’ve invested at a younger age may move on and the investment will be lost. That is correct. However, the organisation has gained from the improved performance of this person while employed by them. Plus, the likelihood of talented people leaving diminishes if they feel they are constantly improving and developing.

Our strengths-based leadership development programs are built on research gathered by Zenger Folkman from more than 850,000 individual 360-degree assessments. LeaderSHAPE Consulting leadership training programs are packed with action-oriented information grounded in hard science and proven to increase leadership effectiveness.

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