Just the Job: How to portray yourself as a leader
A: One definition of ‘leadership versus management’ that I like is as follows: management is getting people to do what they should do, whereas leadership is getting them to do what they never thought they could do.
There are hundreds, nay thousands, of studies and articles on this area. A Google search will further develop your understanding. For example, writing in the Harvard Business Review, Vineet Nayar highlights three differences between management and leadership – counting value versus creating value; circles of influence versus circles of power and leading people versus managing work.
“When they [your team-mates] stop discussing the tasks at hand — and talk about vision, purpose, and aspirations instead, that’s when you will know you have become a leader,” he observes.
Management is the day-to-day or week-to-week side of the house. It is arranging your people in such a way that they can achieve what needs to be achieved. This does not necessarily mean you do the exact same thing every week. In fact, you might change things up quite a bit.
Ultimately, however, it is primarily concerned with the regular actions required to keep the enterprise going.
Leadership is at a different level. It involves vision. Leaders conjure up ideas that could dramatically alter how things are done. Or they prompt colleagues to come up with inspired ideas. And, critically, they leading people to get those things done.
An example might be if you manage a golf club. Management is ensuring that the greens and fairways are trimmed to the appropriate level, the bar is fully stocked and the car park is spick and span, particularly in advance of a busy weekend of golfing.
Leadership, on the other hand, might be proposing that the club buy new land to expand its facilities – and then guiding the club to that point. Clearly, this requires a different set of skills and captures the reality that not every manager has the potential or desire to be a leader.
It is likely that you manage and lead within your job. I suspect that the question was asked to tease out your leadership skills. They could probably see your management strengths already.
To prepare yourself for a similar question in the future, make a list of everything you do in your management role and see which elements of it might come under the heading of leadership. This exercise of looking closely at what you do in your work can be very powerful, allowing you to see the value in things that you perhaps take for granted.
Maybe you should look at doing a course on leadership? There’s an endless supply of them out there now and they can be very useful. Even a short course would act as a solid introduction to this area – and it would also help to convince your current employer, or future employers, of your interest in developing your leadership skills.