Pop quiz: Which is more important, leading or managing? Ah, this is a trick question.  The answer is both, but not at the same time.   

People use the word “leader,” “manager,” and “boss” interchangeably.  Each of these words can be formed as a noun or a verb.  For instance, a leader is a person (noun) who leads (verb).  A manager is a person (noun) who manages (verb).  And a boss is a person (noun) who bosses around (verb).  Although these words have much in common, they are not the same.   

Leading is not Managing, and Managing is not Leading

“Management is the sorting of tasks to be done.  Leadership is recognizing which tasks are important,” advises Douglas Vermeeren in his book Personal Power Mastery.  To be an effective compliance officer, both leading and managing are critical skills.  But to be the most effective compliance officer you can be, you must learn to differentiate between leading and managing, and consciously choose which role you are embodying during important interactions.

The Tasks

As leading and managing are both verbs, both indicate actions.  The actions associated with leading and managing are different.  Leading involves:

Managing involves taking the vision of the leader and then:

Both are Important

Visions don’t get accomplished without the underlying steps being taken successfully.  Likewise, managing without a vision creates stagnation instead of movement.  You may move between being a manager, leader, and worker throughout the day.  The trick is to thoughtfully determine who you need to be in each moment.

This applies strongly in compliance. For instance, let’s say that you’ve been assigned the role of migrating your third-party due diligence process from Excel files to a software service provider.  As a leader, your job would be to determine the vision for the outcome of the implementation, which is to create a smoother and easier process for the business and the third-parties, and in addition, create the capacity to show an audit trail to a regulator.

Once you’ve determined the vision, the next thing you’d need to do is to work with yourself or your team to manage the tasks required to reach the vision.  As a manager, you or your team would need to find vendors of third-party due diligence solutions, review their software, consider the pros and cons of each, and report back to the leader with your findings and recommendations.  The leader would then take over to make the decision, which would be followed up by the manager, who would be in charge of working with the software company to configure their product to meet the company’s needs. 

In this scenario, the compliance officer needs to decide whether s/he is acting as a leader or a manager during each step.  If this isn’t done properly, the project will not be completed smoothly. 

While the use of the word “manager” or “leader” may seem like semantics, the way in which words are used has power.  When you thoughtfully consider whether it is best for you to show up at interactions as a manager or leader (or one after the other, but not at the same time), you’ll be more effective.  As Vermeeren says, “Once you are a leader, you can recognize what tasks need to be included in your efforts and which ones are not supporting you.  You can [then] manage and focus on what will be of most value.”