I am often asked about the difference between leadership and management. What is it that makes a leader? What is the difference between a manager and a leader … and is it possible to be transformed from one to the other?

Now, there are many more experienced writers who can weigh into this debate, but I would like to explore what I call “hands-off management” … because for me, leadership is about creating an environment where the whole organization or business unit is engaged, working in synchronicity and moving cohesively towards a clearly articulated goal.

El arte en tus manos!In this situation, no-one needs to “hold” the wheel or keep control because the business systems are aligned with your strategy, the processes you need to drive forward are active and working, and your teams are propelling your business forward in line with a shared purpose and direction. Furthermore, with an active and engaged workforce, you are able to complete a feedback loop where your teams who work directly with customers, suppliers, partners and so on, openly bring their insight, ideas and innovations back to the business and feed it through in a form of continuous strategic development.

Obviously, making this work in reality is easier said than done. However, there are some very clear steps that can be taken to begin to deliver the benefits of hands-off management:

Focus on one thing: All leaders must be able to communicate effectively. This is often known as KISS (keep it simple, stupid), but chief executives such as Procter & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley use alternatives such as Sesame Street simple slogans to get their messages across to diverse, global teams.

Lead to outcomes: By helping to focus your teams on the deliverables and outcomes expected, the impediments that come with corporate life can be more easily overcome (or disregarded). This means actively placing responsibility into the hands of your team members.

Engage your village: When it comes to achieving outcomes, you don’t want a team of employees. You want a village. To achieve long term business success, you need relationships with people right across your business. This is not leadership from the corner office. It means having a genuine relationship and a mutual, vested interest and responsibility towards your team members.

I will return to the topic of hands-off management as I see there are significant benefits for organizations of all sizes. But in the meantime, what does “hands-off management” mean to you? How have you seen it working in your organization?

Nina Nets It Out: No matter whether you consider yourself a “leader” or a “manager”, there are significant benefits to hands-off management. I will be exploring these in the coming weeks.