Leadership is about saying yes, Management about saying no

About 2 minutes to read. Posted on April 1, 2021 14:00

As a curios observer of everyday systems this thought came to me a few days ago. Due to the different nature of Leadership and Management they can sometimes be told apart by the two words "Yes" and "No".

In short:

Key insights

Why is this important?

No matter if you're saying yes or no, you will probably have to justify your desicion sooner or later. Understanding the dichotomy between these two disciplines can help you communicate the thought process involved. As an employee it can help you understand "The Game" and find the right words for why you want or need something. Do you want to mitigate risks or take advantage of opportunities.

Some examples

Let's apply these ideas to some examples:

John is an intern and Acme Corp. He just joined a few weeks ago and wants to rewrite the business application in Go to replace Java.

If our goal is to minimize business risk and ensure John is working on something productive, then the answer is most likely "No". On the other hand, if we want John to gain first hand experience, grow as a person and as a developer, we could suggest he try and plan the rewrite (while also managing his expectation of success).

Another example:

Sophia has been an invaluable contributor on her the team over the past few years. A senior position has oppened up on a team she is interested in, but she has little or no experience with the technologies invovled.

Again, minimizing business risk would demand someone with adequate experience to take the new role. That would mean telling Sophia "No". There are a lot of opportunitues for Cross-pollination between teams though, so saying "Yes" and taking the risk to benefit the growth of everyone could also turn out to be an excellent decision.

It's about balance

As mentioned above, both activites (Leadership and Management) are important. If you're in a Startup environment you're probably all about taking risks. In contrast working for a Fortune 500 company mostly involves management. But in both cases both activities exist and are practiced, just to a different degree.

Try it for yourself

Next time you get a "Yes" or a "No" in your company (or give the answer yourself), think about the nature of the anwer: What strategy is being followed by giving this answer?

Disclaimer: Of course this is an oversimplification. But simple ideas are easier to remember.

Thank you for reading

I hope you enjoyed the article and maybe even learned something. If you would like to stay in contact I have a mailing list or you can reach out to me via social media.