I'm a Certified Online Business Manager; I manage people, projects, and systems.
There’s a school of thought examining what it means to “manage” versus “lead.” In a 2013 article, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discusses the difference between leadership and management.
It outlines that leaders convert challenges into opportunities and create circles of influence, whereas managers rely on the hierarchy to control lower-ranked team members in circles of power.
As an OBM, I follow the business owner’s lead and ensure the efficiency of business operations. I can hire a team. I can delegate tasks. I can jump in and whip a team into shape boosting productivity and reliability. Yes, I’m a manager because I am hired to keep people and things on the right track.
However, when a client reaches out to me to be their accountability partner, am I not also a leader??
I remember receiving rapid-fire texts and emails from a brilliant client who was worried about being an imposter. As her own worst critic, she was ruminating on all of her shortcomings. We’ve all been down that road!
I deployed coaching tools and asked a few questions to reinforce her faith in her expertise. Through our brief interaction, she was motivated and felt enabled to continue to contribute to her success. The HBR describes using these techniques as an example of how people lead.
I’ve discussed how professional OBMs can use a “coaching approach” with team members to restore pride in their work and garner respect for their boss’ goals. Doesn’t that make me an action-based leader?
So perhaps, technically, an OBM leads people and manages things.
To my mind, having the ability to influence individuals to do something is the essence of leadership. I want as much agency as an OBM working for a business as I give to team members. One of my duties as an OBM - as the owner's right-hand -- includes ensuring team members' roles are fulfilled; thus, team members must have a reporting relationship to me. I lead people to manage things.
I am happy to embrace the label “manager," because one thing is certain, a business owner has little to no time to manage everything.
I’d love to hear from you! When are you a “leader” or a “manager?” Are you a business owner who finds yourself managing operations when you’d rather be leading your business? Can The 25th Hour help? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!