The Role of Management in Leadership

The dictionary defines management as, “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” I have to be honest, I find this definition to be the exact opposite of the true purpose of leadership. Management is a title and position. Leadership has nothing to do with titles or positions. I might be able to get behind the idea of “dealing” with people, although I wouldn’t use that word, but I hate the word “controlling”. Leadership is about service, which is the very opposite of controlling. So what exactly is the role of management in leadership?

First, we need to deconstruct the idea of “dealing with” and “controlling” people. The idea of “dealing with” people expresses a very passive, unvested role when it comes to leading  people. Without a core belief in “team”, it doesn’t matter the company or organization, there will never be forward progress, nor will said company/organization ever grow to its full potential. “Dealing” with people does not express investing in people. The idea of “dealing” with people conveys a negative connotation about the team. Instead of seeing people as valuable members to the company/organization, it indicates that people are problems that need to be “dealt” with. To combat the idea that management needs to “deal” with people, the focus should be on investing in people. People are not problems that need to be dealt with. Rather, they are the key component to the success of any company/organization.

Anytime people are “controlled” it never ends well for the one doing the “controlling”. There are things that are controlled: remotes, vehicles, lights, etc. What do all of these things have in common? They are all inanimate objects. People are not inanimate objects and should never be treated as such. Leadership should never seek to “control” their team, but rather provide guidance and support for each member of the team. If someone on the team is struggling, leadership needs to come alongside them and find ways to help that individual become successful. On the other hand, if a team member is toxic to the team and is refusing support or help, then it’s time to let that person go. By no means should leadership seek to control their people. Rather, they need to be in the trenches with their team listening, observing, investing, and most importantly, serving. As Jocko Willink stated, “The mission is a top priority, but it is not THE top priority. People come first.”

As I stated before, management is a title and a position. This doesn’t make the person in management a good leader. We need to redefine the definition of management. Instead of “dealing with” and “controlling” people, management needs to focus on the foundational characteristics of leadership: support, guidance, investment, and service. When management lacks these core fundamental characteristics of leadership, they will do more harm than good. If the goal of management is to get positive results and meet goals for the company/organization, then they need to invest and support the people who can meet and provide said results. The team should always come first. 

Let’s go back to the original question, “What is the role of management in leadership?” I believe a better question might be, “What is the most effective style of leadership for management?” If the goal is to get results, then management needs to support and invest in the ones that will help produce those results. Controlling and dealing with a team limits the results that can be produced. However, by investing in and serving their team, a manager can boost morale, help strengthen their team’s weaknesses, and build a positive, team centered mindset within their company/organization. If you are in a management position, be sure to make your people the priority. The goals of the company/organization won’t matter if you don’t have a team helping you reach those goals. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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