Over many years of working with and consulting for smaller advertising agencies and marketing firms, we have learned that many ad agency owners have little understanding of the difference between ad agency management and leading their people. For many agency owners, they are the same thing.
We beg to differ, as do pretty much all leadership gurus and top business consultants.
First, here are definitions of Manage and Lead:
To Manage – to use one’s powers to lead, guide or dominate; taking responsibility for the acts and achievements of a group; direct handling, manipulation or maneuvering toward a desired result.
To Lead – to guide someone or something along a way, especially by going in advance; to be first in or among; to direct on a course or in a direction.
So here is a simple explanation of when to manage, versus when to lead.
You manage things—time, project schedules, processes, which personnel work on which teams, which clients get priority service, etc.
You lead people.
Building Trust, Modeling Behavior
Leading means setting the example of how to behave and speak by your own actions and words. Leading means listening, thinking about what was said, and offering a thoughtful, reasoned response based on your values and mission. Leading means standing on principle even if you must pay a cost—especially if there is a cost. Leading means not just asking your team to trust you and your decisions, but demonstrating you and they can be trusted through consistent, ethical actions and transparency.
Leaders do not sit in their walled towers, shielded from the hoi polloi by underlings who only tell you what they think you want to hear. They walk among their people, observing, guiding, offering praise or gentle correction, mediating disputes fairly and judiciously, and always reiterating the collective values and goals you hold dear.
Learning the difference between management and leadership is key to building and growing a strong, people-powered ad agency. We know you have the talent and desire. Think about your leadership style, and determine whether you are leading, or just managing. Then start making the shift to true leadership. Your shift in focus and practice will soon be reflected in how your team behaves and makes decisions.
See also: Are You a Boss or a Leader?