In any organization, there is a distinction between “The Leaders” and “The Managers.” Apart from nicer offices and bigger paychecks, the perceived difference is that leadership usually stays hands-off on the execution side of things and focuses mostly on strategy.

A way to sum up this thought would be: “Leadership develops the vision, management executes it.”

We’re sure you’ve heard some variation of this sentence being expressed at your organization.

In truth, however, every single position within an organization is involved in both leadership and management roles, regardless of their job title. This means that even those on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder are thinking about the vision or direction of their own careers (self-leadership) while executing their day-to-day tasks in order to remain employed (self-management). And the CEO must communicate the direction of the company while managing the performance of his or her Vice-Presidents which control lower level divisions.

It would be far better for a company if everyone was leading towards achieving the same vision – a concept we call organizational alignment. However, as any experienced executive will tell you, this is much harder to accomplish than one would think. This is because leadership and management have multiple levels, and aligning them can be a complex task. However, with the correct system in place, it is achievable.

Below, we break down the different aspects for leadership and management, and how a system can help you achieve organizational alignment.

The Five Levels of Leadership…and Management

There are five levels of leadership:

  1. Strategy
  2. Functional Team
  3. Process
  4. Project
  5. Self

Individuals can occupy multiple roles within these levels. For example, every individual fills the self-leadership role, but may simultaneously occupy a project leadership role (directing a set of targets with a finite end) or a process leadership role (directing a function that is ongoing).

As mentioned earlier, within each of these leadership levels, there is also a management role. So, someone who plans a project must at one point shift to an execution role to be successful, at least as far as ensuring that those who are assigned the project targets are working on accomplishing them.

Too often this is missed, and lofty plans are drawn up, but the management side of things breaks down and nothing gets done. Or, the reverse occurs; a lot of doingness occurs – but without clear direction, and so growth stagnates and people spin their wheels trying to figure out where they should best direct their labor.

The solution in balancing these leadership and management roles lies in systems.

Systems Lead to Repeatable, Measurable Results

Smart people know enough about business to develop a product or service, identify prospective customers, launch it, sell it, and service their clients. What most lack, are the systems to create repeated success measureable in concrete terms. This lack of systems is what leads to such a high failure rate among new businesses.

But systems don’t alone guarantee success; some use them so rigidly that employees are not much more than a bunch of robots, executing their jobs with little creativity or zest. These systems, in other words, do not allow people to adopt leadership roles, but instead treat everyone like fast food or assembly line automatons.

Great organizations find a balance between allowing employees to be both leaders and managers within their zones of responsibility. They inspire leaders at every level to develop broad visionary goals and support them with the means of execution through excellent systems and processes which direct action while being flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions.

Furthermore, these systems also provide scorecards, which allow things such as operational efficiency, sales performance, and customer satisfaction to be tracked and compared. This indicates whether success is in reach or whether a shift in strategy or execution is required.

The Six Disciplines System to Align Leadership and Management

There are many methodologies on the market to improve organizational performance. Some are limited in scope, while others are simply outstanding and applicable to many industries.

In developing our system for creating organizational excellence, we incorporated the “best of the best” into our methodology- from consulting practices to performance management software to quality programs to executive coaching. It is a comprehensive, holistic approach to building companies that formulate effective strategies and execute them successfully.

Here are some of the broad, key steps from our system:

  • Assess. Determine what needs to change in the organization. This includes discovery steps involving client and key personnel interviews, direct observation, analytics/metrics audit.
  • Develop the vision. Figure out where the organization will dominate and develop the broad mission utilizing input from the “boots on the ground.” Including lower-level managers in this process empowers them and will help keep them focused on the vision when managing their squads.
  • Roadmap it out. Who does what and in which timeframe? Leaders have to adopt a management viewpoint here, taking into account the realities of the resources and personnel at hand.
  • Align. Change is painful unless you can balance running the current business with change implementation. It is hard to do, but we have best practices to help our clients manage this transition. The key is to get agreements both horizontally and vertically across divisions, departments, and individual employees.
  • Execute. This is the stage where strategic planning converts into the actual doing. Those responsible for execution must be able to shift roles from getting buy-in to the vision to ensuring workers get tasks done.
  • Refine. Once the vision is well underway to being accomplished, everyone involved should have significant input as to what is working and what should be tweaked. As before, even lower-level employees and managers will shift into visionaries at this point as they imagine what could be improved. And the C-Suite will have to think of the practical requirements of managing these refinements within the constraints of existing resources.

Leadership and management should not be considered two different job descriptions; rather, they should be seen as different roles each individual will occupy regardless of their official title.

Instilling this viewpoint in a company will increase responsibility by each team member and give them a greater sense of ownership of the results.

Give them sufficient freedom to creatively solve problems as leaders, and provide the best practices and processes to direct action as managers – even if only of their own position – and you will win.