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Leadership: Leading vs. managing

s your fire service striving to create better managers, or are you striving to create better leaders? Are the two mutually compatible or mutually exclusive? Are the roles mutually supportive or potentially conflicting?

December 13, 2007
By Barry Bouwsema

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Is your fire service striving to create better managers, or are you striving to create better leaders? Are the two mutually compatible or mutually exclusive? Are the roles mutually supportive or potentially conflicting?

These difficult questions may have no definite answer as the topic of discussion is complex in nature. To better understand the difference between management and leadership, we can begin by examining their definitions. The word manage means “to handle;” the word lead means “to go.” Similarly, as the two words have different meanings, they also have different purposes. “Managers are concerned with the problem at hand; they focus on what needs to be done. Leaders on the other hand, notice what has to be done, but spend their time figuring out how to get it done.”(Managers vs. Leaders, Colvard, 2003, pg. 1). While both concepts are critical to success and are interconnected, the management act of goal-setting is quite different from the leadership act of visioning.

Managers deal with the present situation, while leaders are tasked with looking to the future.

Management and leadership are often discussed as if they are the same thing; current business philosophy would argue that they are not. The two topics are related, but their central functions are different. It can be argued that managers do provide leadership, and that leaders perform management functions, but most leaders do perform a unique set of functions that managers do not: Some key differences include:

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•     A manager takes care of where you are; a leader takes you to a new place.
•     A manager deals with complexity; a leader deals with uncertainty.
•    A manager is concerned with finding the facts; a leader makes decisions.
•    A manager is concerned with doing things right; a leader is concerned with doing the right things.
•    a manager’s critical concern is efficiency; a leader focuses on effectiveness.
•    A manager creates policies; a leader establishes principles.
•    A manager sees and hears what is going on; a leader hears when there is no sound and sees when there is no light.
•    A manager finds answers and solutions; a leader formulates the questions and identifies the problems.
•    A manager looks for similarities between current and previous problems; a leader looks for differences.
•    A manager thinks that a successful solution to a management problem can be used again; a leader wonders whether the problem in a new environment might require a different solution. (Colvard, 2003, pg. 1).

Becoming a more effective leader depends on one’s ability to challenge the norm and apply a new perspective, to look at a current problem from a new angle. Leadership is about taking an organization to a place, in a value-added and measurable way, that it would not have gone otherwise.

The fire service is going to new places in the 21st Century and it will take leaders to get there. Good management will be important in the future, but good leadership will be essential.

References:
Colvard, J. (2003). Managers vs. Leaders. Retrieved May 1, 2006 from www.govexec.com.
Managers vs. Leaders, (2003). Retrieved May 1, 2006 from www.freeessays.cc.

Barry Bouwsema is a 21-year veteran with the fire service and works as a company officer/paramedic for Strathcona County Emergency Services in Sherwood Park, Alberta.


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