[MMM] Monday Morning Motivator | The Difference Between Leading and Managing

Good Monday morning!

Were you one of almost 40 million people watching the Oscars last night? Even if you didn’t, you’re certainly hearing about them today.  Oscar night celebrates the leaders involved in the outstanding movies of the past year. I happen to think that great movies and great companies have a lot in common. 


You won’t be surprised to hear that some of the movies I find most interesting are documentaries, real stories about real people. Recently, I watched The September Issue, a film that follows Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, and her staff, through the creation of the magazine’s 2007 September issue. In fashion, September ushers in the annual fall collection, and each year it is the largest issue; last year it totaled over 900 pages! Yes, that is a lot of advertising. 


I’m no fashion maven, so I don’t have much to say about Vogue style, but I have committed the better part of my professional life to the study of people and leadership.  I’m interested in what makes people tick, and how organizations can design healthy environments in which people thrive. 


Charles Handy has spent over 50 years thinking and writing about these things too. In his autobiography Myself and Other More Important Matters, he shares his basic philosophy about work is to take cues from the theatre or film industry. “There’s no talk of ‘human resources,’ everyone is listed in the playbill, and managers are for things (stage, lighting, etc.), not people. The talent is directed, not managed.”  


Talent flourishes when directed, and will get very frustrated when managed. In  The September Issue, Anna is incredibly demanding, and spends more of her time managing than she does leading. She heads the top fashion magazine in the world, has some of the most talented people in the industry on staff, yet she involves herself in the minutiae of their work.  Managing takes a toll on them, but, I would argue that it’s equally hard on Anna. Yes, she gets a great product to market each month, but at what cost?


There is a better way.


Lead people.

Manage things.


My question for you is: “Are you managing or leading?”


Leading is much less stressful and far more rewarding, on both the personal and organisational level. Who knows, you might just get nominated for an Oscar while you’re at it.


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On the red carpet, along the road with you!


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