There is No Them

Lessons on leadership from the world of game development

A Proposed Definition of Management

with 2 comments

In a previous post I introduced my working definition of leadership: Leadership is committing oneself to the success of those around you, and acting on that commitment at every opportunity. If this is how I define leadership, what is management?

Leadership and management go hand in hand. Tracing my thoughts on both over the years reveal that early on in my career I saw management as a step towards leadership. But as I grew to appreciate leadership better I realized it needed to stand on its own, and not as part of a continuum with management. I believe successful business leaders must express great Leadership (as I defined it above) and great Management, but not having a working definition of Management makes this statement hard to further explore.

As excited as I am about being a part of the DSGA, bringing leadership lessons to future video game industry folks, I have to remind myself that our mission is to also instill strong management skills in our participants. It became clear that I needed a working definition of management to give form to what I hope to be teaching.

I wanted to find a way to express what management was that paired nicely with how I defined leadership. As the two are very complementary, the two definitions should themselves be complementary.

Also, note that an important goal of mine when defining Leadership was to attempt to create a meta framework that leads to all of the behaviors traditionally viewed as aspects of Leadership. I want to do the same with Management; instead of the definition being a list of attributes used to describe good management, what definition would necessarily lead to all of the same behaviors?

Which brings me to my working definition of Management: Management is committing oneself to achieving results through others.

I’m still toying with this, but am coming to appreciate its simplicity.

Defining Management this way led to an important personal realization about Leadership. Leaders work with people to help them get better, so people are the means and the ends for Leaders. On its own, my definition of Leadership doesn’t necessarily ship great product or make any profit – shipping product and making profit are not necessarily required for a leader to deliver on ensuring the success of those around them.

On its own my definition of leadership describes Ghandi, or Martin Luther King. These were great humans, but running a commercial enterprise was not core to their mission of helping humans. On its own my definition of Leadership leaves out a bunch of stuff that is critical to running a successful business. But all of the stuff it leaves out is covered when paired with the working definition of Management. Managers know that people are the means to some other end; harnessing groups of people well can unlock incredible results.

Great Managers know how to best work through others to achieve great results. Great Leaders know how to bring out the best in people, and to go beyond what they them selves believed was possible. When the same person is a great Manager and a great Leader the results can be truly impressive – achieving incredible results and growing everyone involved.

I look forward to feedback about this definition and its implications (supportive or not). I will push participants of the DSGA to think deeply about this. Your feedback is welcome as well. If you don’t like the definition tell me why. If the definition resonated with you tell me why. As this is a working definition, I’m open to feedback either way; whether the definition changes much or not, the discourse is invaluable.


Written by joshuahoward

August 6, 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I like the definition a lot! “achieving results” is spot on for managers. I think “through others” is good, but “others” bugs me a bit. Perhaps “others” could be exchanged by “team”. It reminded me of this article: (As you mentioned leadership and management go hand in hand)

    That would make “Management is committing oneself to achieving results through a team”.

    Great blog posts btw! Enjoy reading them 🙂

    Maurice Kroes

    August 6, 2014 at 11:35 am

  2. Interesting definition and one that I agree with. In fact, it’s refreshing to read as I’ve been starting to feel my definition (which is similar to yours) was wrong. It’s interesting to me, because I’m going through a “discussion” with my employer around my role and some proposed changes. The company (or, more arguably, the new Senior Director I work for) is changing my org structure and as a result, my role is being changed. Promises were made to me that are now being ignored and as a result, the scope of my role is being reduced. Unfair dismissal issues aside, my boss is telling me that I’m a “born leader” and “she’s never seen a team with so much respect for someone”, and as such, would be perfect for the management role she wants me to fill – and not the leadership role I currently occupy.


    August 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

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