091: Leadership vs Management
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We compare the terms leadership and management today on the episode. Both roles leader and manager are necessary to keeping a business going. We discuss our own definitions of leadership and management.
Hiten makes the point that early on in a business you need to focus on leading a team and then move into managing them once things are established. Today we discuss what both roles do for a business.
We cover these topics today:
- What is a CEO
- The questions to ask when leading
- The questions to ask when managing
- Finding the right management or leadership style
At the end of the day finding the right people to manage and lead is based on your own goals for the business.
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Steli Efti: Hey, everyone. This is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And today at The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about management versus leadership. So this is going to be a fun episode. Just because this has been a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot, it’s also kind of a current thing that’s going on in the company so I’m super curious to hear your thoughts on this. Well, first, I do believe that there’s a massive difference between management and leadership.
Hiten Shah: So I pulled up Wikipedia.
Steli Efti: Nice.
Hiten Shah: So let me just there.
Steli Efti: Okay.
Hiten Shah: I’m going to just read what they say. So they say management in businesses and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives by using available resources efficiently and effectively. So management is about using resources towards goals and objectives. It’s their definition in business.
Leadership, so there’s been some research and stuff and so this is what I think they’ve said. Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill. Regarding the ability of an individual or organization to lead or guide other individuals, teams or entire organizations. That’s the sort of short version. So that one is really just—that one is really mostly about skill, it sounds like. And management more about maybe you could say coordination?
Steli Efti: I haven’t totally reversed. To me, leadership is the quality that you have found the answer to a common question like when do we need to go, what needs to be built, what needs to be accomplished, what are we trying to conquer? And like leadership is somebody defining the answer to a question and then taking the steps towards accomplishing that and inspiring people to want to follow that person to help with that solution or help accomplish that thing. That’s leadership and to me that’s much more of natural and authentic than management.
Management to me is like once we’ve—leadership is like defining the end-goal and being the first one to take the steps towards that end-goal and management is about defining the route, right? And organizing people and when we break and what we eat and what we drink and when we’re going to make stops and how to get there in the most efficient and effective manner. Management is about organizing the resources to get to that goal. Leadership is defining what the goal is in the first place and inspiring others to want to follow you towards that.
Hiten Shah: I think leadership is the goal part too and inspiring is part of leadership, but I don’t think the goal part is what I would define as leadership. I think that’s management.
Steli Efti: So how do you define leadership? If you take away the defining what the end-goal, defining whatever you want to call the vision, the answer, the goal, the where are we going to go.
Hiten Shah: I don’t think leadership is the—I think it fuzzy. I think it’s the fuzzy skills. I don’t think it’s the management skills.
Steli Efti: Yeah.
Hiten Shah: Like management is literally like, you know, managing humans. So, you know, making sure they’re productive towards an end-goal that’s why I can’t put like, you know, the idea that management isn’t setting the goal basically.
Steli Efti: Oh, that’s fair.
Hiten Shah: Right? And I think leadership has very little to do with setting the goals in the same way as management does. I think leadership has more to do with like your ability to lead humans, which is different than manage humans. Lead humans is more like their well-being, your well-being, the organization’s well-being, the ability to make sure these individuals are highly motivated, right? Personally and professionally. And I think those things to me are like the types of things that leadership—I would categorize more as leadership and less as management. Maybe it’s a spectrum, right? Where like it’s not really one or the other at this point.
It’s more about like as a founder or somebody’s starting running a business or even like, you know, leadership role in business, whatever they call that I guess. You’re just having a balance these two things all the time because like we need to be able to account for the emotional side of it. I guess that’s my argument more than anything else.
Steli Efti: Okay. Would you—how would you categorize yourself? As a leader, as a manager, as none of both? How do you think about that within yourself? Would you say—some people say I’m, you know, natural born manager. I’m a natural born leader. I’m more of one or the other. How do you think about yourself?
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I don’t think I’m natural born anything in terms of that stuff. I think it’s like you need the skills and things that are required. So like, for example, many different types of people lead companies, start companies and run companies, right?
Steli Efti: Right.
Hiten Shah: And I know they say there are some research on certain types on this and that, but like overall in the spectrum of it, there’s lots of different personality types. For me like I probably gravitate between leadership and management constantly, right? But it really depends on the situation. I don’t think—I feel like I’m not a natural at anything to be honest. But that’s probably some kind of self-deprecating something, you know?
Steli Efti: Yes, yes. I love it. That’s very much a Hitenism if I’ve ever come across one. It’s like “I’m not a natural born anything.” I feel about this differently, at least until we’re having this conversation.
Hiten Shah: Cool, yeah.
Steli Efti: For me, I always did feel like I was a natural born leader in the sense that I’ve always taken charge of situations or people have always wanted to listen and follow me.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: So that always seem to come—that was very much part of my personality and identity even as a child as long as I can think of. Management is something that’s a learned skill. So I’ve—everything I do that I would put in the category of management is learned and honestly between the two, I really—like I love being a leader, not even—that’s not true. I actually am oblivious to being a leader. I’m just—it’s just so much part of my personality I don’t think about it. But leadership is just like breathing, eating, like it’s part of who I am. It comes very natural.
Hiten Shah: I agree. I get it.
Steli Efti: Management is hard. To me—
Hiten Shah: Okay, okay.
Steli Efti: –management is hard work. To me, management is like taking out the trash. Nothing about it is fancy. Nothing about it is natural to me. Nothing about it is fun. It’s just a grinding work. Managing people and resources to me takes effort, takes energy. It’s not necessarily the most pleasurable thing that I do.
Leading people or being a leader, that’s natural. That’s pleasurable. That’s easy to me. So that’s kind of at least the mental mind frame that I’ve always—not always, but I’ve thought about is it’s like—and I do think I’m a pretty good leader but I think I’m a pretty average manager at best, probably because I don’t enjoy it as much.
Hiten Shah: I see. Yeah. That’s interesting. I think I suck at both of them all the time, to be honest and frank, and that’s only because like the second I think, you know, I figured something out, some other problem pops up that’s either a leadership or a management problem. But I live in that management-leadership world. I mean—and I don’t—yeah, I don’t even think I’m specializing as much as I used to at this current moment. 0
And so, yeah, I get it. I mean anyone would look at you and think about what, you know, you and hear you on stage and your videos and even meet you in person and say, “Oh, he’s a natural born leader,” right?
What I really would—how I would describe you, you know, just outside of this bias of leadership or management is like I think you’re a founder with a get-it-done attitude, right? And that is what I think expresses your leadership style and your management style. It’s the get-it-done attitude. You’re pretty congruent, right? Like the way you lead, it feels to me like at least from everything I’ve seen and heard and watched and what-not that you lead the same way you manage and you manage the same way you lead. And that’s not bad or good. I’m just saying that like that’s what it feels like to me, and I just think it’s this get-it-done attitude you have.
Steli Efti: What do you think—do you think one of the two is more important as a founder? Is there—because you are right, they’re very overlapping. It’s kind of a little fuzzy the lines. It’s clearly that they’re not the same thing but it’s not that they’re so distinct that there’s no overlap. But when you think about—when somebody listens to this and they’re an aspiring founder, what is it— as a founder, what is it that you really absolutely—do you need to be both or do you need to be one thing more than another?
Hiten Shah: I think that’s a great question. I think early on in the business, you can get away with just leadership. Motivation, if you want to say you’re doing goals, then you’re probably doing a little bit of management if I want to put goals in the management bucket, but you’re probably leaning heavy on your leadership, you know, and your ability to like, you know, keep the team going, motivated while there might not be much to get them motivated about except just what’s going to happen next or what they’re working towards instead of where they’ve already gotten and then what’s next.
So, to me early on I think leadership is how most people get away with it. This is why like you’ll have, you know, a small office and 4 or 5 people in it, 6 or 7 people in it and they’re all just huddling and doing stuff together and just hustling around and writing code and doing all this. That to me feels like just leadership. You don’t need to think about managing these humans. You don’t need to think about, you know—you don’t even probably even need to think about too much of their motivations except the “hey, we’re in a startup and we need to start up, we need to get started here, right? And here’s what we need to do.” That feels like more hustle leadership stuff and less management to me.
And then as you scale, things—as more humans are in the company, you end up turning it over and being like “Oh,” you know, management becomes a problem. Being able to, you know, organize, coordinate, all those things that sort of, you know, you might not like or you might not be used to early on in the startup is what you need to evolve to especially as a leader in the company.
Steli Efti: Yeah, that’s kind of—it seems to be a typical journey where at the beginning, you know, there’s not really much to manage so as long as you—you know, as long as you show up, you attract the right people and you’re going in the same direction, you can accomplish a lot. But once you do have resources, once there’s, you know, customers, revenue, lots of code, lots of people, funding, investors, the complexity of what you’ve done has grown beyond the early days, you need a ton of management, an increasing amount of management and that’s oftentimes a stumbling block for a lot of founders that’s when, you know, the founder CEO is getting kicked out and she’s being replaced by, you know, some person with 20 years of CEO management experience.
Obviously there have been good and bad examples of that, but that’s kind of a stumbling block or in many other cases, you know, the founders, CEO, leader will bring in a COO manager to help and kind of—
Hiten Shah: Right. Correct. Yup.
Steli Efti: —help balance out the skillset that’s being required. What’s your thinking—like I’ve never had like the typical CEO top or sidekick person that kind of took over a lot of my management responsibilities. I’ve definitely romanticized on that thought and had like the hallucination that that would be a really attractive thing to have eventually, this sort of person that’s an amazing manager just a great complementary type of person to me that kind of takes away a lot of these things from my plate.
Have you ever had a person like that? Have you ever thought about that? Do you think that’s usually—have you seen that work or not work? What are your thoughts on that on like mastering both things versus trying to bring people in and complement on those skillsets?
Hiten Shah: I think this has to do with leadership and management style. So if you have alignment on leadership and management style with somebody, whether it’s a CEO-type person or even an executive in the company, then you’ll feel comfortable giving them the responsibility of, you know, managing and leading some of the people that you might be doing currently and need to get into a transition.
So, the thing I found is that it’s a style thing, you know, and you should be vetting like do we think about people the same way basically and do we think about problems and goals and all that the same way. So leadership would be do we think about people the same way. Management would be do we think about operating this business the same way and these people like, you know, and how we should be leading.
I know it’s like a little fuzzy because some things are—for some people some things are hard lines like “Oh, you know, I’ll never lead like this” or “we’ll never have hierarchy” or this and that, right? But I’m talking about things that are a little deeper than that, right? Which is more philosophy on people how to treat them, things like that too.
Steli Efti: So let’s talk about both things real quick. In leadership, if you say, you know what, I don’t feel like I’m a natural born leader. By de facto, I had to learn how to lead and be a leader. How do you learn that? What are places, resources, ways people can learn leadership in your experience?
Hiten Shah: I just see people jump right in and just start working with people, hiring people and learning like jumping in. There’s just so much, so, so, so, so—I can’t stress this enough, but so, so, so, so much information out there at this point, right? And with all that information that’s out there like you’ve got a lot of different styles. So the biggest thing is like find some style you gravitate towards that somebody’s written about or that you’ve watched in a company you worked at or whatever and then see how to, you know, evolve it from there. But to me it’s like jumping right in and having that responsibility is the only way to actually learn how you enjoy doing it, how you like doing it, what you value, things like that.
Steli Efti: I love that. What I’ll add to that is I think the most important thing if you find yourself in a situation of or in a position of leadership or when you want to be, you’re starting a business, you’re hiring a bunch of people and now you’re like “Oh, for the first time in my life, I need to take care of these people, lead these people.” I think the most important thing to keep in mind is it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Whatever you do, whatever leadership book you read or blogpost, whatever, people you ask for advice, however you try to find your authentic style or find a way to do that, to lead people effectively and lead them well, you need to realize that it’s not about you. Don’t try to be a leader. Don’t try to have people respond to you a certain way. Don’t try to be inspiring or motivating. Don’t force your need to be a leader on to people. But approach it from the exact opposite point of view. When you talk to people just ask yourself, how can I help this person be happy? How can I help this person be productive at work? How can I make sure that there’s clarity and alignment within this group of people?
See yourself as a servant of the team, somebody that is a service provided to these people and try to help them versus coming into the relationship with a need for validation, with a need for “yes, these people accept me as a leader” or “yes, this person looks up to me. I need them to look up to me. I want them—” Like don’t come into the relationship with the neediness of being seen a certain way or treated a certain way or get a certain status because that’s just going to fuck it up, because people hate that. The last thing you want is to give somebody respect that is demanding it from the get-go that is needy about it.
And I’ve seen this recently with somebody that wants to be a leader and wants to step up to the plate and is so concerned about that and so like stressed out about being the leader that that person is missing the point of leadership in the first place and that person is struggling and has struggled with that in the past because of it because people kind of sense that that person is coming to the relationship with a lot of their own needs and very selfishly wanting to be perceived a certain way and then people just are turned off by it.
So, anyways, this is rambling but my point on leadership is remember it’s about the people that you’re trying to help and not about you being a leader.
Hiten Shah: Yup. I love it. A good rant.
Steli Efti: All right. Let’s talk about management. This is something that I don’t know, I feel like I still suck at this a lot and it’s kind of a constant struggle on becoming better at it. I mean obviously there’s tons of books out there. There’s tons of resources out there. What’s your management style in general? How do you manage people? How do you think about management? How do you help people or coach people within your own team organization to become the type of managers you want to see? What are your thoughts on this?
Hiten Shah: Yeah. Management. You know, it’s just whatever flavor of structure and, you know, I guess degree of formality you want in the company. So, I’m seeing— you know, a trend I saw late last year—actually a trend I’ve seen for about 18 months, I would say more accurately, is like people are starting to implement things like OKRs—objectives and key results like at earlier stages than I had seen before. I have no opinion of that except like, you know, it seems like that’s management to me which is like you’re a startup and you have to start, you know, implementing some framework for your team to be accountable and also be motivated around actual goals that are business goals.
And there’s other companies that are constantly like from the beginning operating in that way as early as possible. And, you know, I’ve seen that as well whether it’s OKRs or some process of coordinating basically where were we, where are we and where do we want to go and how is everyone on the team going to help us get there and have some metrics, some goal in mind or not even in mind but on paper that they’re aligned with and understand that their goal is to achieve that.
So, that to me is how I would describe kind of sort of what I’m seeing today and the kind of management that I’m seeing today which is just back to basics of like “We have goals. Let’s set them. Let’s make sure they’re, you know, appropriate and know how they impact the business and let’s make sure that everyone that’s working in the business understands how their work impacts the business.”
Steli Efti: So, yeah—so you’re right and people that listen to this that haven’t seen a lot about it, I think there’s a bunch of really great like talks and blog posts about OKRs and the early days of Google and how Google sets them and it’s just a framework. I mean there’s many frameworks out there but it is a pretty simple, practical frame work of like goal-setting for teams.
I find that one of the top things about management is the transition from kind of the maker, the manager, the transition from being somebody that produces something to somebody that helps coordinate a number of people producing something at optimal rates. And that transition oftentimes is tough for people because they still like to hold on to being a producer themselves or they hold on the way they like to produce, which is very rarely the way that everybody else will do it, right?
It’s kind of like you’ve done something pretty good hence why you’re probably put in a leadership position where you are supposed to manage others, but now your skillset needs to change and you need to let go of your old mind frame. Have you coached people through that transition in your own companies? And have you found good ways to help people become good at being managers that were like individual contributors beforehand?
Hiten Shah: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s like what many, many people sort of have to deal with, right? And founders are like critical at, you know, maintaining their roles in the companies and scaling. And so, you know, one approach is simply—it’s very common which is like figure out how to take what you’re doing and basically have someone else do it, right? So like work yourself out of jobs, you know. I think great leaders and managers and even great team members tend to work themselves out of their jobs.
One of the folks I work with, he wrote an article about this. I learned a lot from him about management and leadership, but he wrote an article about like working yourself out of a job, right? And that’s essentially what he did in our company. And so, you know, over all to me like that’s a framework I like to use basically.
Steli Efti: Yeah. I like that. I’ve heard that before is where you’re like great managers or great leaders, they find ways to fire themselves, you know.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, that’s it. There you go. There’s like been a lot of way to say that but it’s so powerful, right? And as a founder, you have to do that. That’s like the framework. Just like work yourself out of jobs. And it’s very tactical. You’re going to love this, Steli. You write down what are all the jobs you’re doing, right?
Steli Efti: Yup.
Hiten Shah: You just write them down and then you just figure out all right, we can do this. And one way to look at it is it even worth doing? Because the easiest one is like just get rid of stuff you’re doing that’s just a waste of time, right? And then from there, it’s just like okay, who else can do it? Right? Can someone do it actually better than me? Right? Things like that. and then you chop it down to just doing the critical few things and, you know, just back to like— we’ve talked about focus quite a bit in a previous episode but like in probably many more, but like that’s what it boils down to. How can you just do less and do all that you’re doing the less of it much, much better?
Steli Efti: I love it. All right. That’s going to be your tip for this episode.
Hiten Shah: Sweet.
Steli Efti: My tip for the episode to end it off is one on leadership which is a very simple challenging thing to live up to, which is don’t ask people to do things you’re not willing to do yourself. It’s as simple as that. Don’t tell people where to go and then step back and secretly know that you would never go there like that’s just never going to work. The simplest way to lead people is from the front is go and demonstrate what you expect people to do, demonstrate the type of behavior, demonstrate the type of work that you want people to do and they will actually follow you, respect you, listen to you, and believe you when you tell them things.
The worst thing you can do is ask people to do things you’re not willing to do yourself. Ask them to overcome things you’re afraid of. Ask them to do things you’re inconvenienced by and you try to avoid. That’s not leadership. That’s never going to work and that’s why I think leadership is not hard. It’s just being first, doing it first, demonstrating what you want from people, being authentic, but it’s oftentimes inconvenient because the things you want people to do might be things that you don’t want to do either. But you have to live up to that standard yourself first before you can ask anyone to step up to the plate.
So, my simple tip is just make sure that you always do it first. Make sure that you always demonstrate what you want. Don’t just tell them what to do. Demonstrate it to them. That’s it. That’s all I got.
Hiten Shah: Sweet.
Steli Efti: This is it from us on this episode. We’ll hear you guys very soon.
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