There’s a great deal of talk in the training industry about the differences between leadership and management. What do those differences really look like, and what do they mean for leadership training?
“Simply stated, I think you manage things, and you lead people,” says Tom Roth, chief operating officer of Wilson Learning. “Leading’s more about encouraging people to grow and reach their potential and make connections between what they contribute and the larger purpose. So you might manage the objective, but you lead people to be inspired by that and what it means for them as individuals.” Without that distinction, he says, an organization will likely be unable to carry out its strategy effectively.
Similarly, Steve Fairbanks, vice president of product at O.C. Tanner, says, “Leaders see their employees holistically and support them with vision, appreciation, well-being and coaching. As managers can move beyond administration to leading and coaching their employees, they can create thriving team cultures.”
To that end, O.C. Tanner recently released a new product, Align, “that helps managers excel in leadership responsibilities by emphasizing the one-on-one relationship” through personal and team goal tracking, personal development planning, and feedback and recognition tools. “There is a difference between holding a one-on-one and connecting with an employee,” Fairbanks says. “Where management is setting a goal, leadership is communicating and connecting a team to a vision. Align empowers leadership development by providing managers with best practice guidance.”
Leadership Training for Managers
“There’s a huge difference between training management skills and [training] leadership skills,” says Roth. “Management training is more the skill and drill, and leadership is really a holistic integration of the ‘be’ side and the ‘do’ side.” Similarly, Fairbanks says, management skills include “key behaviors” like how to hold a one-on-one, goal management and project management. Guided practice can help managers develop these skills.
Overall, leadership and management training should address the common challenges new leaders face. According to Fairbanks, new managers often “default back” to performing their previous job, where their success earned them the promotion. This default behavior is due to two factors: They don’t understand the expectations of the new job, and they have never practiced key management skills. Once leaders understand their role, “they can focus on working with people and developing leadership skills instead of falling back to their work before they were promoted.” As Roth says, the managers then “grow into” their leadership expertise.
Roth points out that while new managers face challenges, “so do managers moving from frontline or first level to mid-level. So do managers going from mid-level to executives.” Training should be personalized based on the level the leader is entering.
At the mid-level, for example, “there’s a higher premium on your expertise.” Rather than being a problem-solver, Roth says, the middle manager is “a facilitator, helping others solve problems.” He or she must be able to collaborate across functions and competing priorities to accomplish business objectives, which also involves shifting “from rock star to developing rock stars.” Training, therefore, must address this challenge.
Finally, for executives, Roth uses his own experience: “My need to do day-to-day leadership and management of individuals is much less than my need to focus on really establishing and creating the culture that sustains high performance over time.” Executives need training that enables that type of strategic, high-level thinking.
Fairbanks recommends using more than one platform or modality, including tools that both report on manager behavior and put “best-practice guidance” into the hands of the managers during their workflow, when they need it. Training should be consistent, and the managers’ leaders need coaching so they, in turn, know how to provide coaching to their employees. Roth echoes the importance of coaching, saying that while you can’t teach character, coaches can help leaders develop it themselves.
The first question to ask, Roth says, to determine whether your managers are learning to become leaders, is “If leadership development is the answer, what’s the problem?” What problem do you see in the organization that leadership development is attempting to solve? After training, are those problems solved?
Additional metrics include employee retention and turnover, employee engagement, productivity, and ratings by employees of their managers. Fairbanks adds that assessing culture “helps organizations get a meaningful and insightful view into their company.” Tools, like O.C. Tanner’s, can provide a benchmark, analysis and recommendations on improving culture – and culture can be a significant measure of the effectiveness of leaders.
Ultimately, Roth says, leaders “are in the energy business,” says Roth. It’s leaders’ job to manage the energy of their teams. It’s a significant responsibility, but by providing effective training on both management and leadership skills, you can ensure that your leaders are both “managing” and “leading.”