Managing Business: A fine balance between Leadership and Management

Running a business (organization) is brutal, it is a sprint and a marathon in quick successions.

Sai Kumar Chandran

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

One such bunch of crazy people are all the people who own or run businesses. Come to think of it, businesses are all around. From creating everything that we use, to creating the flow of money that we use to buy what we use, much comes from businesses. While many aspire to start a business, only a few get to it, and even fewer who can successfully run a business, long enough to make an impact. So, whether you are one who owns a business or one who works in a business or someone preparing to do either of these, a good learning endeavour could be to discover:

  • What is a successful business?
  • What does it take to run a successful business?

I will only attempt an introductory answer here, and hope it piques your interest enough to make you go deeper into these answers.

A successful business, can have the following attributes:

  • Is able to build or possess a useful or aspirational product or service
  • Is able to reach prospective customers or consumers and eventually manages to convert some to paying ones
  • Is able to ensure value is delivered to those who have paid or will be paying

And in the process:

  • Is able to develop an organizational infrastructure that supports those who build and deliver the value the business offers
  • Is able to mitigate risks and expand the organizational presence
  • And in today’s times, is also responsible towards the planet and communities

A successful business runs on what Kaoru Ishikawa in the famous Cause-Effect / Fishbone Diagram would describe as 4M: huMan, Machine, Material, Method. While material and machines will continue to be the at the heart of any business to produce its output, huMan and Method will always be the power behind it. There are two sides to this power, one that brings structure and one that brings dynamics. Management practices, bring structure and leadership practices bring dynamics to create and run the system we call ‘an organization’.

Management Practices: are born out of the study of design, engineering, economics, finance, mathematics, consumer choice and applied research on human behaviour, quality, and other specialized subjects. These subjects give us the understanding to give structure to the organization and its working. From the formation and type of organization, to staffing the organization, to getting work done, management practices obsess with creating systems, laying down process and directing actions that will enable a business to run and remain profitable. For all the people involved in the organization, this is largely about what they do, and to some extent how they do it. This is mostly about, extrinsic existence of the people involved in a business. Successful management practices, enable the following broad outcomes:

  • Getting things right in terms of the strategy, shape and staffing of the organization
  • Configuring the organizations activities through a declared model of operations that generates and connects organizational output to customers
  • Controlling all the activities of a business through financial management to ensure profitability
  • Building the right physical and intellectual controls to avoid mishaps and malpractices
  • Creating the right kind of preparedness to ensuring continuity of business through natural and unnatural events

By ensuring the optimum outcomes in these 5 areas, any business can generate income and keep a spot in the economic cycles of whatever sector and geography it chooses to operate in. However, consistently successful businesses, are found to do use Leadership Practices to guide the Management Practices to its best outcomes.

Leadership Practices: are born out of the study of human evolution, societal practices and their underlying triggers, psychology, political science, neurology, and other specialized subjects. These subjects help us to bring the right capability to empower engaging dynamics in the organization. From a compelling purpose to values that inspires right actions, to ethics, to work design, to how people must behave, leadership practices obsess about strategic priorities, relationships, delegation of authority and work, to the spirit of rewards and recognition that will enable a business to run and remain profitable. For all the people involved in the organization, this is largely about why they do what they do, and how they do it. This is mostly about the intrinsic orientation of individuals and group existence of the people involved in a business. Successful leadership practices, enable the following broad outcomes:

  • Doing the right things coupled with strength of character of groups and individuals through values, leadership models etc.
  • Building the right culture that fosters inclusion and leveraging the power of the collective without any pockets where individuals feel isolated
  • Unleashing potential of the people and business by brining discussion, direction, decision, and discretion to the heart of all work in the organization
  • Maximizing opportunities for everyone so there is collective progress and collective wellbeing
  • Sustaining and scaling profitability through continuous delivery of value and driving impact for customers and consumers
  • Learning from past and present to leave a legacy that touches the communities where the business operates and for the planet through contributions to the SDGs (sustainable development goals)

By ensuring the optimum outcomes in these 6 areas, any leader or leadership team can sustain and scale income and build a brand in the minds of people. Additionally, consistently successful businesses, are found to do use Management Practices that bring to fruition the guidance of Leadership Practices to hard outcomes.

Between the 5 management outcomes and the 6 leadership outcomes:

  • Is this a lot to get right? YES, it is.
  • Is it an absolute must to get right? This is for each person in the position of action to consider and do.

I can only say out of collective experience, that ignoring any of these 11 will only bring unintended consequences, some threatening and the others discomforting.

Hence, for a Senior Professional or for a business owner both sides are critical. A cheat sheet to remember:

  • Business without management and leadership is a gamble, and there is no predictability of outcomes
  • Management without leadership is a sweat shop, and there will be minimal joy and grace in running the business
  • Leadership without management is a variable dream, and there will always be a struggle to generate outcomes
  • Business with mediocre management and leadership is missed opportunities and a source of frustration at all levels

Running a business, is brutal; and the zeal to do so is just the entry ticket to the world of business. Management and Leadership Practices that fit the bill for the business are a way to create a method to the madness in the brutal world of business.

Try it. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Sai Kumar Chandran is the founder of OrbitShift. He is a coaching and consulting practitioner and an entrepreneur at heart. He can be reached at

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