Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Leadership vs. Management

I saw a tweet the other day that said something about management being the same thing as leadership. Wow do I vehemently disagree with this. I don't follow this person and I don't think they follow me, but just in case this post comes to their attention I'm not going to link to the tweet that inspired this post. Regardless, leadership the same as management? No. Very very much no.

Let me start out by stating I know "management" has many many many definitions. For the sake of this post, I'm talking about management within the context of our profession as a job. (Project management is a whole other thing in my mind, and you should read what Michael Perry has to say about it.) What I mean by "management" is a person who is in charge of other people and who is directly responsible for those people and their performance. This isn't an easy job, no matter where you do it, especially not in a library. Neither is management an easy skill set to acquire. I can admit it: I've had a steep curve learning how to manage people. Some things were easy, like I already knew not to correct my employees in front of others. But being a good library manager is so much more than that. There are policies to craft, a budget to oversee, and the physical plant (building and grounds) to manage. Being a manager is also about the day to day, the nuts and bolts, fill in your favorite cliche for a third. In my library that means things like making sure part timers have the schedules they want/need. It even means cleaning up after the basement floods - which it did twice in my first year. Management is about resources and systems and standards.

Being a leader, on the other hand, is higher level thinking. It's about overarching themes. It's about vision. Leadership is about morale and rallying the troops. Even more importantly, leadership is about keeping people on track and knowing where you, as a team, want to go. Being a leader is about helping the staff of a library create and realize a vision. Writing a strategic plan comes in here, as does building relationships with stakeholders. It's also about balancing strengths and weaknesses within your team and leveraging what everyone does best to achieve larger goals. I know this is a lot of high fallutin' language, but that's where leadership lives. It's about inspiration, so you need the fancy words.

I think the reason these two get conflated on such a regular basis is that the most productive administrators have healthy doses of both skill sets. I think I'm getting there, but I've still a ways to go. I want to be like that cat up there who has the vision *and* the means to make things good for the dogs. The way I think of it is that good managers are adept at seeing the trees and good leaders can see the forest. The best administrators see both.

Or, if you'd prefer to think of it as Admiral Grace Hopper so succinctly put it: "You don't manage people; you manage things. You lead people."

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