Leadership or Management? You Need Both!

Leadership or management – which one is more important if you’re a business owner? It’s a bit of a trick question – the reality is they’re both critical if you’re going to succeed in the long run.

When you first start a business, as the owner you’re responsible for it all. Finding the opportunities, delivering, servicing, even billing, collecting and cleaning up afterward.

But then your business starts growing, and if you’re doing it right, your role as the business owner starts changing and others start taking over key components of the business. Eventually, you hire a great team, and your primary responsibilities as the owner should boil down to leadership and management – you are uniquely positioned as the obvious answer for both of those responsibilities.

What’s the difference between them and what does it take to do them both well?



Leadership is all about creating engagement within the team.

“The essence of leadership is to get others to do something because they think you want it done and because they think it is worthwhile doing.”   – Dwight D. Eisenhower

As the leader, it’s your job to create the environment and the opportunity that enables the rest of the team to succeed.  There are 3 key components you need to start with:

Vision – it starts with creating a compelling vision – creating a game worth playing.  Author Gino Wickman, in his book How to be a Great Boss, talks about the idea of creating an opening, a need to be filled that will draw your team into it. Ideally, your vision has a big picture (10 years) component to it and a much more tangible short-term look (1 and 3 years).

Question – Have you created (in writing) what you want to achieve… and have you shared it repeatedly with the entire team?


Support – Your second major job as a leader is to actively support your team. Your job is to make their job easier in any and every way you possibly can. If your vision is compelling and a stretch, they’re going to need lots of things – training, resources, technology, tools, access to you.  Your job is to make sure they get what they reasonably need in order to win.

Question – Are you consistently spending time with everyone on the team to make sure they have what they need?  Are you giving them your time and attention?


Consistency – Finally, your job as the leader is to hold the line. Be a great, ongoing example of the type of person your company is all about and a consistent focus on the big picture. Although it’s not always easy, that means making decisions that put the long-term goals ahead on any short-term needs or issues. Basically, do the right thing and set the tone.

Question – When you’re making decisions, are thinking strategically or just reacting?  What could you do to think more strategically?



Management is all about creating a culture of accountability.

“Failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness.”  – Patrick Lencioni

It’s not an easy thing to do, but having a team where everyone is accountable to getting the right things done is how great businesses thrive.


Clear Expectations – It all starts with getting extremely clear with everyone on your team about what’s expected of them. What roles and responsibilities are they filling, how are they expected to act (core values) and how will they be measured in terms of success.

Question – Does everyone on your team clearly know what’s expected of them?  Are you sure?


Communications – It’s not enough to talk about expectations once a year, they have to be constantly reinforced and reviewed in order for them to stick. The recommendation would be to have a weekly meeting to make sure every team member is on track and a more in-depth quarterly review where you revisit and reset if needed on values, roles, and priorities.

Question – How often do you currently meet with your team members 1 on 1?  Do you hold a quarterly conversation with them to help plan out the next 90 days and make sure they’re on track?


Measure and Celebrate – Finally, ongoing accountability is very difficult if you don’t have a simple way to measure progress and success.  And when you achieve success along the way (and you should), then it’s critical to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate those milestones. If you’re paying your team well, then public recognition of success will be a very big motivator.

Question – Does everyone have a number? (Something that clearly and easily measures their input and impact to the business’s success). What’s the last thing you celebrated?


You need both Leadership and Management

Imagine your business and your team has great leadership but is lacking management. You’d have a great vision that excites people, the team would be engaged (at least initially) but there wouldn’t be a clear path forward. Without clear expectations, a way to measure success and an ongoing process to keep things on track, that vision is going to quickly spin out of control.

Likewise, imagine your business has great management capabilities but is lacking leadership. You would have a very effective team that can get things done, they just wouldn’t really know what to get done or why anything is important. The most likely outcome is that they would start working on different goals and priorities with an end result of not getting anywhere.

Finally – imagine a business and a team that has both great leadership and great management. They’re clear and focused on what needs to be done (and why), they know how to do it and they’re supported and managed along the way.  That’s a team that’s going to do great things.

Where does your business or team stand relative to Leadership and Management? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this – let us know what we missed or what we got right.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach