Scott Barnett & Associates Blog
Leadership vs. Management

May 4, 2021
There are many leadership and management styles and they vary according to the person, the organization and the situation. Leadership and management are not the same thing – they're not even close.
The Key Difference:
Leadership vs. Management
No organization or entity has studied leadership as completely as the United States military. Every officer has read and practiced the multitude of teachings and approaches as a part of their training.

Admiral Grace Hopper was an accomplished woman in the military back when "women didn't do that sort of thing." As one of the developers of the software language COBOL, she created the expression debugging when she disassembled a problem computer and found a large insect inside and removed it. She debugged it.

I had never heard of her until I was reading some pieces on leadership several years ago.

She wrote,
"You manage things but you lead people."
Hopper distilled the differences between leadership and management down to seven words. If there is a better example of Occam's Razor in terms of leadership philosophy, I would love to see it. There are a lot of managers in the world but few leaders.
Personalizing Leadership Principles
for Success
Non-conforming is probably the best way to describe my own leadership style. I of course follow all laws but, in my world, soft rules are often meant to be broken. As a result, I don't care about how my people dress, if they necessarily follow all protocols, what their lifestyle, gender or ethnicity is or almost anything else.

I do care if they can work together as a team along with all that concept implies.
Working together as a team is absolutely paramount to the success of an organization. A big part of that is yielding status to others.
A leader must encourage his team to leave their egos outside of the decision-making process. To paraphrase a former President, it's amazing how much can be accomplished if nobody cares who gets the credit.

In the organizations I have led, I have tried to make it so that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I like to empower people deep into the hierarchy. This can be dangerous and even fatal to an organization if the culture is not ready for it.

It is why People is the most important component of my decision making in my leadership style. Giving people the freedom to fail is essential to an organization that wants to remain vibrant and nimble.
The Competence and Commitment Test
Several years ago, well-known management guru Ken Blanchard created something called the Situational Leadership Theory. In essence, it said that leadership styles should be applied to subordinates based on two factors - their competence and their commitment.

The more competent and committed, the less direct supervision was required. Those that were less committed or competent demanded more and sometimes close supervision.
The Situational Leadership Theory applies leadership styles and levels of supervision to subordinates based on their competency and commitment; the more competent and/or committed, the less direct supervision required.
This is simple but powerful. It makes intuitive sense. The key, however, is how does a leader increase the competence and commitment when it is necessary? (And it usually is.)

Competence is typically the easier of the two- training and experience typically get through to the employee if managed effectively. But increasing someone's commitment? That's a lot more art than science.

More money, position and power are strong motivators and I am not one of those who thinks that we just forget about them and all go to the hot tub. But I do believe that the intangibles can trump them.

If a leader can motivate her people to find purpose and value in what the organization can accomplish, then she has stepped up her game and will almost assuredly obtain more commitment. That purpose and value, however, must be real and apparent to all. Otherwise, crash and burn…
Applying Situational Leadership Theory to a Restaurant
Operational systems designed to maximize efficiency also have to be reactive to a given situation and be reflective of the culture and the leadership style. At Bubba Gump, a restaurant concept that pursued fast nickels instead of slow dimes, nothing happened by chance. All of our operations systems were well-thought-out and tweaked as necessary. There had to be choreography to the chaos.

For example, in the kitchens in the back (the manufacturing plant), Bubba was a well-oiled machine with highly systemic approaches that surpassed most of our larger competition.

But in the front of the house (the sales department), we were a deceptively free-wheeling, unstructured playground. For a group that is largely younger and undisciplined, the fewer the rules, the better.
The key to these seemingly contradictory approaches was communication. If you are a leader, be prepared to constantly explain. If you don't like explaining ideas and issues to staff, you likely won't go far.
We told the kitchen staff in the back - especially the cooks - why we hired the servers. The cooks needed an explanation about our server hiring and managing practices because they could not understand why the servers continually made mistakes with food orders and screwed up the back's well-oiled system.

The cooks were told that the servers weren't hired or prized for their organizational skills; they were hired for their personalities, driving sales that drove profits.

With the cooks' understanding came a deeper appreciation for what the servers could do well, and forgiveness for what they didn't do so well. In other words, it was leadership communication that got the team on the same page.

To sum it all up, true leadership requires considerable transparency- as it relates to management strategy and decisions. It's done by communication. Motivating the staff to work together as a team is the ultimate goal. It requires explanation of both the "why" and the "what" to the team as a whole, as well as to different groups within the organization. That's been my experience anyway and I have seen how this can lead to success time and time again.
For further on this see my leadership talk at the University of Arizona and read my other blog articles on approaches to leadership.
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