What is management? What is leadership?

The book Coaching From Essence has a good explanation of management vs. leadership.

Assume you’re trying to get from point A to point B:

If you know where B is and where A is, then you’re just looking for the shortest distance between two points. That’s a project management challenge. You’re on a path. You need a pathfinder, a project manager. That’s called management.

[…] As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” You want to end up somewhere else, but somewhere better than you can imagine when you set out from A. Let’s call that B-prime. Since you can’t imagine it, you don’t really know where B-prime is. You may not even know where A is. There is no path.

You have to go on a quest. To be on a quest, you must know how to journey into the unknown. You need to embrace uncertainty. If things are certain, there are few possibilities. When things are uncertain, the situation is full of possibilities. Anything can happen. You need to learn how to navigate the unknown, to befriend uncertainty. That’s called leadership.

You are not a leader unless you are guiding people through the unknown to something better than they can imagine when they begin their journey.

Robert Ellis

I’ve talked before (see “Good manager, bad leader“) about how people tend to be good at one or the other, but rarely both, because they’re kind of opposites. Good managers look inward, good leaders look outward.

That quote minimizes the role of management (because the book is a sales pitch for coaching), but it’s just as important as leadership. They’re just different. Management helps you get where you want to go, and leadership helps you discover where you want to go. We need both.

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