Change is both a constant and a challenging part of our professional lives. Leading change and managing change are different skills, and learning to navigate both processes successfully is essential to long term leadership success.

I capture the difference between leading change and managing change in this way:  It’s all in the direction of your gaze.

Leading change requires a leader to look up and out in the direction one wants to travel and to describe how to get there. 

Managing change requires the manager to look across the organization and down into their area of influence, and adequately describe and oversee the work that needs to be executed.

There is more to it, of course. But asking, “Which direction are you looking?” will offer a fairly good insight into whether you are engaged in leading change or managing it.

To effectively navigate from Here to There a leader must look in both directions.

Knowing which one captures your attention and imagination at this point in your career is an important insight that can help ensure that you are both doing the work you love and serving the organization well.

Do you notice the details? Do you easily see the relationships between tasks, teams, people and projects? Are you the consummate planner and implementer? This is the management and execution side of the street.

Alternatively, do you have a talent for seeing opportunities where none exist today? Do you imagine new ways to solve problems? Have a talent for seeing a different future reality than the one that exists today? If so, then you likely thrive in the leadership lane, leading the conception of project and building the strategy upon which a team will succeed.                                   

Discovering which kind of leader you are wired to be at this point in your career can be undertaken by simply noticing which of these two lanes captures your attention.

Then you have to discipline yourself to do what was asked of you as a kid: look both ways before you cross the street!

Organizational success depends on the ability to execute on a great vision.

So, leaders, are you looking both ways as you cross the intersection with your organization? When you do, you can ensure you will get from Here to There successfully.

Tune in to hear Jennifer and Jeff, Voltage Leadership’s CEO, take a deeper dive on this topic on this episode of their radio show Illuminating Leadership.