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How leadership is different from management

So you're the manager. Boohoo, what a ride! Probably nobody told you managing is easy, yet.

How management works, in a nutshell, is making sure that things get done — you can just come up with various metrics, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), some achievable goals, and you're good to go! You can sit back, relax, make yourself a fancy foamy coffee, and look at the bar going from 0% to 100%.

Why exactly is managing easy? You will find yourself intensely looking at the bars and numbers and relentlessly optimize. Things that are too slow will be optimized, things that are not working as expected will be removed. Easy peasy!

Once a year, you will call the big shots: performance review. You will be the judge and the firing squad. From the high horse, you will analyze, summarize, and question the results. Easy! It's almost as if that's their problem to meet your high expectations. You want the results, the numbers, revenue, production numbers, lines of code, or shipped features. Numbers, numbers, and more numbers.

You might not even notice that the things get done by real people, who are not robots. They come with their little agendas, dreams, and motivations. You need to listen to their stories, provide support, remove obstacles, and whatever you do, not see them as numbers.

That's where leadership comes into play. It's hard. Requires a lot of empathy. Puts one's benefit over the cold performance metrics. Common sense is out of the window, and that's scary!

Being a leader requires getting off the high horse and getting one's shoes a bit muddy. That's the best part: by relating to each other and understanding psychology, leaders can make beautiful things happen. Communication, inspiration, motivation — these are the things leaders bring to the table.

Good leaders get under the skin of the problem and shift from the managerial "what can you make for the company" to a more constructive "how we make the success unavoidable, together?"

So, today, ask yourself: "Do I know what my team is dealing with? Can I help them?" It's not easy because some hard truths can swim toward the surface. Things we do not want to know or acknowledge about our work, communication style, or impact.

Having empathy is so hard while accounting for results can be almost mindless. That's why true leaders are so hard to come by.

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