Management Vs Leadership

For not being in a supervising position I have take a substantial amount of training regarding leadership skills. Why? I’m interested in the theory and practice of leading teams or groups and I’ve been lucky to have bosses that are willing to cut me some slack on taking training that isn’t directly related to my current job.

Yet during a recent training session I came to an important conclusion: I don’t want to be a supervisor…ever.  I want to be a leader instead.  Huh?!? What’s the difference?

Well that got cemented in my mind when I did a group exercise on what is leadership and what is a supervisor.  The list of the supervisor items where: paperwork, reporting, managing people issues, performance management…you get the idea.  Meanwhile the leadership list included: inspiring others, developing others, driving change, and realizing a vision.

At that point I realized I like leadership, but I have no interest in the actual day to day work of a supervisor.  I’ve watched way too many people that those jobs and question if it was a good idea or not.  Also I’m blessed to be in a company where you don’t need the title to lead something.  People are mostly assigned work on ability and workload in my particular work group.  So I’ve already lead things without a title and I’m completely ok to continue that.

Perhaps the hardest part of the realization for me was letting go of my ego.  In my head I had always thought I would likely work up to the first step of the management structure, but now that won’t be happening (by my own choice).  I’ve been told by several people that thought I would make a good supervisor, so letting go of the dream has required some work on my part.

Yet in the end, I think this will be best.  I really do think I would be unhappy in a supervisor position, so after six months of thinking about this dream: I’m letting go.

So what was the last thing you thought you wanted, but found out in fact you didn’t want it?  How did you move on?

One thought on “Management Vs Leadership”

  1. Tin, I was able to achieve what you strove for in my last few years of being a supervisor. When I switched to working part-time from full-time back in 2001, I kept my job title but was stripped of many of the crummy things I hated about being a supervisor. These included writing up employee evaluations, one of my most hated tasks.

    I still had to provide feedback to other supervisors about staff who worked on projects for me, but that did not have to conform to such rigid standards. I could still provide instruction and guidance to those who worked on projects for me and help them do their jobs better, and I liked that a lot. I still participated in discussions about projects with my fellow management people and provided input about how to get them done. That was fine, too, except for the formal meetings.

    But to your broader closing question, the last thing I pursued which I was interested in only to end up abandoning it was trying to become a square dance caller. I have been an avid square dancer for many years and back in 2008 I practiced, with my expert square dance caller’s instructions, square dance calling. I had actually become pretty good at it but did not really like it so I stopped, much to the chagrin of the caller who still bugs me about trying it again. (He is old and wants me to be his successor, a role I never signed up for.)

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