What's the difference between Leadership and Management?

Reader Question: What’s the difference between leadership and management and how can it fix my organization?

Good leadership includes good management, you need both.

Bad leadership manifests itself as bad management.

How leaders/managers think, leads to how they behave, and the decisions they make. The decisions they make, leads to the organizational structures they put in place; the processes, rules, and systems. It could be a command and control structure, a flat empowerment structure or others. The organizational structure plus the leadership/management behaviour, leads to how people inside the organization behave and the culture that emerges.

Good leadership therefore starts with two steps;

First, determining the mission/purpose of the organization. Please see, “Why are mission statements critically important?”.

Second, building the most appropriate organizational structure to support the mission/purpose. By the way, it is never command and control, and it isn’t a flat empowerment structure (unless it is small).

Based on the Integral Organization Model, the organizational structure needs to take into account that people need different styles of leadership and management up and down the layers of an organization. Take a moment to think about this point, because understanding the variation up and down the layers is rarely discussed in business books, but has been extensively researched by academia. The way leaders and managers think and behave needs an increasingly broader perspective and timespan as you go up through the organization, please see Vertical Leverage.

The front line troops need structure such as job descriptions, expectation setting and local feedback loops. Middle management need the ability to make decisions, especially in order to remove roadblocks for their front line troops. Executive management need to ensure that their teams have the right resources, skills, training for their middle managers and front line troops to be effective.

Take the example of how Southwest Airlines is structured;

"Southwest Airlines created the position of Airport Station Manager, whose job is to develop a tight-knit team that coordinates maintenance, pilots and ramp and customer service employees for the fifteen minute turnaround. Cross-functional teams are empowered to be responsive to local station conditions rather than driven by rules and processes from distant corporate staff" High Commitment, High Performance, Michael Beer.

The front line troops know exactly what is expected of them, turn the plane around in fifteen minutes. They would understand how this contributes to delivering to the overall mission of Southwest from the “nested mission statements” (explained in Vertical Leverage).

An example of good leadership and good management working together could be if there is a hypothetical problem with the air bridges not being ready when the planes arrive, causing delays. Good management investigates the reasons why; it doesn’t assign blame. It could be because depending on the wind direction the planes land and taxi from different points at this specific airport, creating variations in taxiing times. Good leadership has created an organizational structure, behavior, culture where we can ask the pilots to call the ramp crew to let them know how many minutes they are away. The ramp crew could let the baggage handlers and the cabin cleaners know as well. In a vertical silo structure this would take multiple meetings in the “distant corporate staff” headquarters to gain agreement for the pilots to work with the ramp staff. In Southwest’s structure this collaborative approach is natural. They are one team making sure they achieve their objectives. Did we turn the plane around in fifteen minutes and if not, why not, and what can we do about it?  If required, the Airport Station Manager can make a decision on the spot to remove any roadblocks.

Beer provides an example of this collaborative approach;

Without a relationship orientation [aligned to mission/purpose], pilots would not collaborate with flight attendants in cleaning an airplane, or meet the fifteen-minute turnaround objective, nor would they be able to relate to passengers in the friendly manner expected of all Southwest employees,” High commitment, High Performance, Michael Beer

Would you ever have thought that pilots would be working with flight attendants to help clean airplanes!

To illustrate the variation of leadership and management up and down the layers of an organization, the baggage handlers, ramp crew, pilots, cleaners are working to short timeframes, plane turnarounds in a day, a week a month. The Airport Station Manager is working to a longer time frame. They are looking at what systemic issues are causing plane delays? Maybe its lack of customer car parking which means passengers are checking in late. How can we fix that? The solution isn’t a today answer; it may take months to provide more car parking. The Airport Station Manager could make a broader decision, as a short term fix, to provide free valet parking to an off-site location to ease the immediate congestion.

Is that how your organization is structured? At what layer within your organizations can decisions be made to improve local processes? Front line manager, Vice President, CEO?

What Southwest Airlines understands is the importance of Horizontal Flow. With the Good Leadership and Management enabled through the understanding of Vertical Leverage.

How can it fix my organization? Please read, “Where to Start”. Ultimately the fix has to start with the CEO, with support from the Board. They need to understand horizontal flow, vertical leverage and the organizational structures that enables Good Leadership and Good Management.

Below is what can happen when organizations don’t understand horizontal flow and vertical leverage. In 1999, Northwest Airlines couldn’t make local decisions, they kept 8,000 passengers stranded on planes for up to 8 1/2 hours. In 2007, JetBlue had a similar situation keeping passengers on a plane for 11 hours.

“On January 2-3 1999, a blizzard closed Detroit Airport, cancelling many outbound flights. Snow ploughs kept runways open and a good number of inbound planes were able to land throughout the evening. Most carriers – United, TWA, and American – were able to bring their planes to the gates and offload passengers with modest delays. But this is not what happened with Northwest Airlines.
In perhaps one of the greatest public relations debacles in airline history, Northwest’s overwhelmed ground staff as Detroit Airport seemed paralyzed in a freeze-frame photo of inaction and indecision. Eight thousand passengers (many of whom had already spent five or six hours in the air) were literally imprisoned on thirty Northwest flights for as long as eight and a half hours without food, water, or working toilets. One passenger went into diabetic shock. Mothers ran out of formula and diapers for their babies. An irate executive used his cell phone to track down Northwest’s CEO (waking him in the middle of the night) to appeal for help. Fights broke out. Passengers threatened to blow open emergency exit doors. Northwest pilots screamed at ground staff over the radio to tow planes to the gates before all control of the situation was lost.
A congressional investigation, extremely critical reports issued by the Department of Transportation, and four lawsuits all found Northwest Airlines guilty of many acts of omission. By inflexibly adhering to “procedures” for ground operations and “rules” for passenger safety, those in charge overlooked many possible solutions. They could have brought the planes near the gates and let passengers off on the tarmac; or they could have disembarked them on the airfield and bused them to the terminal. Alternatively they could have brought service vehicles out to the planes to deliver food, water, videos, baby formula, and diapers; or the planes could have left Detroit for nearby airfields.”
 “Surfing the edge of Chaos”, Pascale, Millemann and Gioja