Management or Leadership?

May always seems to be a busy time of year where I live.  Within about a twenty mile radius there are eight different four year colleges and two different two year colleges.  Each weekend seems to be chock full of graduations and graduation parties.

This past Saturday I had a chance to go to the pinning for some friends who were finishing up their doctorate in physical therapy.  I am extremely proud of all of them, and although I know they are all destined for great things, I will wish them luck anyway.

During their pinning ceremony, a class video was shown featuring comments by each of their professors within the departments.  Everyone had a lot of great things to say about the class.  They shared pearls of wisdom, stories, and reflections over what they saw from these sixteen individuals over the last year.  After hearing what each professor had to say I understood why my PT friends did as well as they did: they had great mentors and role models.

Except for one. . .

When it came time for the department’s management instructor to share her thoughts, the statements she made on screen was one that stuck with me, and not for a positive reason.  She informed the class that they would go on to be leaders, but then corrected herself stating that “not all of them” would be, and some would just be physical therapists.  Mind you, I am paraphrasing a bit, but I think you get the point.

Its hard to believe that the professor of a graduate level program does not understand the difference between management and leadership.  While the two might be closely associated by some, one does not need to be in management to be a leader, and just because one is in management that certainly does not make them a leader.  During my premanagement days, there were many, many “blue shirts” that I would follow anywhere.  Heck, there are still a lot that I would gladly take a back seat to just based on the respect that I have for their abilities which in many ways are better than mine.

In order for a person to leave their mark on an organization or an industry, one must not always progress to the top of the management period.  Sometimes, all they need is the trust and respect of their peers.  That can be far more fulfilling than putting on a white shirt or occupying a corner office, and at the end of the day, I’d rather know that I mean something to those around me than blindly and arrogantly affirm to people that I am important because I am a manager.

A strong leader never forgets his or her roots.  They remember their time in the trenches not matter how long or short that time had been.  They stay in touch with their people and know not only what is going on with them on the job but also has their finger on the pulse of their well-being.  A manager must be able to see the warning signs in an employee before their job performance starts to suffer, but a leader not only has the confidence to point it out before it happens, they will be listened to and their word will be heeded.

Simply put, managers are heard when they speak, leaders are listened to.

To my PT friends and the rest of the “Sweet Sixteen”: like I said, you are all destined for great things, and based on my knowledge of not only your ability in your profession but also on your bedside manner you will all be leaders in your field.

To everyone: take the time to learn from this management professor.  No, don’t take her lessons verbatim but take the time to think about what she said to those who she attempted to educate and make yourself a promise that you will never portray yourself like that to those who follow you.  Remember: if you lead people, then managing a company becomes a piece of cake.  Unfortunately for some, that principle does not work when applied the other way around.