Leadership is about outcomes, management is about activities
The distinction between outcomes and activities isn’t new. Most leaders will tell you that it’s important to focus on outcomes. Yet, beyond talking about it, many have difficulty with the “focus” part. Part of the problem is that most leaders don’t define outcome-based goals. Their goals are simply a collection of the activities that they intend to perform in a given year. A true outcome-based goal describes a positive change to the business. Having a new system or process or engaging in activities that are supposed to create outcomes are not outcomes.
Another problem is that leaders often struggle to manage outcomes and activities simultaneously. Outcomes become book ends. They are discussed during goal setting and then revisited during annual reviews. However, at that point it’s really too late to do much about the ones that were missed. So instead, most people simply reverse engineer an outcome to justify their activities. As a result many leaders don’t deliver the outcomes they originally intended or if they do, it’s often in spite of rather than because of the activities in which we engage.
An alternative is to manage outcomes and activities together. Leaders continually wears two hats: manager and leader. Management is about controlling and optimizing activity. Leadership is about driving outcomes. By constantly alternating between the two, leaders can ensure that they are on track to deliver real results to their organization.