What’s the difference between leadership and management? A question that surfaced again last week when I was coaching a client. In my experience, people need leading, whereas detail needs managing. My client had increased on-time delivery from 24% to 94% in the space of a couple of months. We were chatting about this success and I realised that what he had done really well was to give his team clear direction and encouragement to solve the problems they had. He had also set up regular morning meetings, focused on simple capacity planning issues and doggedly kept his team aimed squarely at the problem. Curiously, he didn’t think that he had done anything himself, which surprised me, as he had done a great deal. A great deal of leading that is. Leading is work too and it was great to hear how his clear leadership, as opposed to detail management, had brought success for them all.
I tried to pin down the root of what made him effective and the answer was very simple. He tended to ask questions. Questions engage us, they force us to think and to confront issues that we have been ignoring. I wrote down three of his favourite questions and here they are, reproduced in all their splendour:
Q1. How can you make your life easier?
Q2. How can you get around this problem?
Q3. What do you think?
I like these. They remind us that great leadership is often about asking great questions. Simple really.
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