Are you managing your businesses or leading it?

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, April 20, 2017

By Elaine Lankford

Talk to anyone in middle to upper management today, and you will hear the terms “manage” and “lead” tossed around interchangeably. But is managing someone the same as leading him?

I recently attended the 2017 International Maxwell Certification conference led by John Maxwell, one of today’s most renowned leadership experts. Many of us probably have stacks of his books in our offices.

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But has the message that John is so passionate about really taken the business world by storm?

“Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” If you have read any of John Maxwell’s books or heard him speak, you’ll recognize this statement.

What I love about the Maxwell philosophy on leadership is the separation of managing people from leading them. When managing a team of people, whether just a few folks volunteering to participate in a community project or hundreds of employees working in a company of national reputation, all that is required is for the person in charge to ensure any number of tasks are completed.

Leading is quite different.

Leadership requires the person in charge to leverage influence among a group of people in order to engage the hearts and minds of the group, motivating them to fully engage and take ownership of the task at hand.

A true leader brings out the best traits in those who follow. As a result, team members become powerful, insightful and creative thought leaders that can move a company into a highly effective, productive and profitable position.

Let’s look at an example of an industry that previously exemplified great leadership, resulting in tremendous success, but is now struggling to be noticed.

Several years ago, NASCAR was on top of the sports world. Whether you like racing or not, you had to admire the way this sport slowly rose to the national spotlight and then appeared to be unstoppable in its growth. Fans were packed into the stands every Sunday, anxiously waiting for the start of the race.

What began as mainly a male denominated sport, suddenly gained a tremendous following of female race fans, some of whom brought children in tow. NASCAR was then called a family sporting event.

Memorabilia became something everyone could collect and a clothing line was created to fit everyone from dads to babies.

At its height, NASCAR displayed the signs of successful leadership — it had tremendous influence among its fans. However, today, among all the heightened safety regulations and car modifications, something has changed.

NASCAR has slipped into management mode. As a result, it is losing its fan base. The evidence is clear — half-empty racetracks are becoming the norm. A quick Internet search reveals article after article on the NASCAR’s economic plunge.

Former NASCAR fans say the decisions made by NASCAR officials surrounding safety regulations, racing rules and ticket prices have made racing a sport of simple commerce and not a sport for loyal, diehard fans.

NASCAR’s shift from leading people to managing the sport has come at a price — declining influence among fans. And without the fans, sponsors will not invest, and the sport can’t survive.

When we allow our minds to shift from leading people to just managing our businesses, we lose influence and all the invaluable benefits it creates.

Today, challenge yourself to become a leader of great influence versus a manager of tasks. Your business and your customers will thank you!

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her at