“Managers change behavior. Leaders change the way you think without you realizing it.”
As a high-impact leader, you must understand the difference between managing and leading. You must learn how to apply the principles of each so you can achieve great results and inspire others to do the same. To give meaning to your words and your actions, you also must model the appropriate leader behavior and the appropriate manager behavior at the right times, for the right reasons.
I often use the following example when trying to help people understand the difference between leadership and management:
Assume for a moment, I’m a manager who just finished attending an all-day Lean Manufacturing class on how to improve productivity by creating single-piece flow and eliminating any batch and queue processes whenever possible. I have an “Aha!” moment in class and realize I have the perfect opportunity to make changes in my department. The next day, I tell my team about the changes and start directing them on what to do—what goes, what stays, and how I expect things to work.
I assume the team will do as they are told to keep their job. Plus, they already know this is how I operate. They most likely will badmouth me once I leave the area, because that’s how they operate. I do what I do, and they do what they do. We don’t have a relationship. I’m the boss; they are the workers. I say what to do, and they do it.
I’ve witnessed this scene many times. It describes the management of people. Telling people what to do is management, not leadership. But a leader of people will do things much differently.
As a leader, I would explain the key things I had already learned in class. I would find a way to share the knowledge. In other words, I would find a way to teach my team what I learned before we made any changes because I want their buy-in and their ideas. What’s more, I would want us all to be on the same page.
Then, I would ask them questions and give them time to think about it and talk it over among themselves. I would want them to generate ideas because they will buy-in to their own ideas much faster and for much longer than they will buy-in to my ideas. Why? Because they want their ideas to work, and they have something to prove: They know how to make things better. We also would have mini-kaizen events on the fly and improve the area together. I would do a lot of listening, learning, and asking questions, especially if I had an idea the team hadn’t considered. Finally, we would decide what to do together.
Clearly, leadership is about helping other people think at a higher level and helping them become responsible for improving themselves and their processes. It’s about enabling the team to provide solutions, which allows them to accept responsibility.
Also, when you think of respect for the people, think of leadership principles. To demonstrate respect for the people, you must lead them. When you think of continuous improvement, think of leadership principles supported by management principles. Always leadership first—because influence is the foundation of action.
No doubt, we must manage things, objects, and processes. But these are things that can’t feel, so management is just about achieving competency. However, we should lead people, because they do think and feel. People have the freedom to choose to follow or not to follow.
Remember: associates don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. They can quit and leave at any moment. However, most associates who report to managers—low-impact leaders—do something much worse than quitting. They quit but stay. It’s called disengagement. As a high impact leader, your mission is to engage the disengaged.
You must lead people in such a way they choose to lead themselves well, they choose to lead others well, and they choose to manage their processes well. Lean is about people first and processes second.
Bottom line: Leadership is influence. With it, you will thrive. Without it, you will take a dive. When it comes to leadership, you must walk the talk. If you do, you will make deposits. If you don’t, you will make withdrawals.
Editor’s note: This post is adapted from Blue-Collar Kaizen: Leading Lean & Lean Teams.