What’s the difference between a competent senior manager and an outstanding one? Acompetent senior manager, essentially, will have astrong repertoire of skills focused on keeping a business’s core componentsin optimal health – accounting, finance, economics, marketing, and overall business management.We can think of the latteras a range of crucial competencies in managing ‘things’ –e.g., budgets, contracts, processes, programs and projects.
What about an outstanding manager though? An outstanding manager understands how to get the best out of the people who will actually be doing the day-to-day work of budgeting, monitoring contractual obligations and running the processes, programs and projectsupon which the business or organization depends for survival – and this requires unique interpersonalcapabilities.
Managing business processesrequires the judicious but decisive arts of directing, controlling, handling, deciding, overseeing, and so on. However, as management consultant Terina Allen noted in a piece for Forbes magazine in 2018:“Not even one of these words fits in with anything I want another person doing to me or for me. How about you? I also learned that leadership is about influencing, developing, coaching, guiding, mentoring or supervising people. So we need to be leading people and managing all that other stuff. The distinction is real and it matters.”
Allen is making a plea for ensuring that the two skill sets are never conflated. People are not processes or programs. Unlike other dimensions of business functioning, they aren’t ‘things’ to be managed, controlled, directed, etc. Knowing the distinction between the two is the first step to deploying these arts in the right fields.
One valuable way to acquire a strong understanding of both is to undertake a well-rounded MBA program. The program offered by Kettering University, for example, which was ranked the best online MBA in Michigan by MBA Michigan and among the top 25 non-GMAT online MBAs by College Consensus, has been tailored to the needs of working professionals whose professional and family commitments can’t simply be suspended to participate in full-time, on-campus education.
Business management needs to be executed competently by a competent manager. It isn’t merely an optional extra – it’s vital.However, so is people management: sentient human beings need to be inspired to be the best version of themselves in their specific roles.They need a different set of skills and actions: mentoring, coaching, guiding and encouragement – in short, leadership.
Directing or controlling other human beings is only ever appropriate in tightly circumscribed conditions (e.g., immediatedanger). Leadership is about helping people work out how to shape their choices and actions in the most productive ways, and how to help their talents flourish – it’s not aboutnot telling them what to do.
Leadership can be transformational in its impact, emboldening people to transcend their current competencies (their ‘comfort zones’), thereby elevating their career status by extending their potentials to new heights.
Using the two managerial skill sets begins with knowing the differences between them
This is why the two skill sets, and knowing the differences between them, are so crucial: if you continually deploy business management tactics (directing, controlling, etc.) on human beings, you restrict their choices and their capacity to grow. The chances are thatyou end up driving them away to pastures new, losing vital talent and untapped potential in the process.