How to Manage the Tension Between Leading and Managing

Three Keys to Keep You Focused

There are clear differences between management and leadership (here are several traits that set them apart). Unfortunately, too many leaders operate as managers (Moses is one such leader who who was distracted by the pressing needs of the day, and lost sight of his call to lead the Israelites into the future). As leaders, we have to resist the lure toward management.

Let me make one thing clear: organizations need both, leaders and managers. Truth be known, most leaders/managers are a mix of both. But if you are responsible for moving your organization or department forward – to a better future – then you need to shift from management mode to leadership as much as possible. Here are three keys to help you manage the tension between management and leadership.

1. Lean toward visionary leadership

Management-driven organizations are usually driven by the past…this is how we do things around here. We are not called to manage the past. We are called to lead people to a God-inspired future. If all we do is manage what we already do, eventually what we do will no longer be relevant. We lead people TO somewhere; we are not guardians of the status quo.

We lead people TO somewhere; we are not guardians of the status quo. Click To Tweet

2. Invest in people not just your product

When we focus solely on our product, we tend to run over people and use people. At the end of the day, we get a lot done but leave people drained, depleted, and ultimately resentful toward us, and the organization. Your product is important, but people are more important. Become a people developer.

3. Delegate management tasks, but develop empowered leaders

We have to hand off tasks to other people; we cannot do it all. The most inspiring tasks we can hand off to others are those that stretch them, grow them, and release them. When Jethro instructed Moses to select capable men, appoint them as leaders, and hand off responsibility to settle disputes among the Israelites (Exodus 18), he also handed off the authority for these leaders to carry out their job. Decision-making authority is what separates delegating tasks from developing leaders.

Decision-making authority is what separates delegating tasks from developing leaders. Click To Tweet

Exodus 18:22 says, “…Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.” As Captain Michael Abrashoff once said, “If all you give are orders, then all you will get are order takers.”

Regardless of where you find yourself in your organization, these tips should help you lead better. If you have responsibility for leading a department, team, or major initiative, you’ll need to resist the lure to function solely as a manager.

If all you give are orders, then all you will get are order takers. Captain Michael Abrashoff Click To Tweet

Question: What step do you need to take to manage the tension between leading and managing?