I often find that people I work with fall into two categories, those that are good at managing and those that are good at influencing. Actually there is a third category who are not good at either and
So what's the difference between managing people and influencing people? It's really how they develop their power base in organisations. The former tend to be good at managing people who have a direct reporting relationship to them. They are good at having control of a team and function and are good at getting things done through others. They develop and use positional power. These people tend to be able to the overall scene for their team, set individual goals for their direct reports, provide progress feedback and can generally keep the team working together.
Influencers are people who can get things done through people who don't have a direct reporting relationship to them. The are usually good at developing relationships throughout the organisation from more junior roles through to more senior roles and leveraging these relationships to get things done. The relationships they develop are "trusted" and as they get better at building trust so does their influencing ability to get things done effectively. Often they prefer not to manage people but work as an individual contributor.
These two types of people, develop and manage their power differently in organisations and while you don't have to be one or the other, I find that most people have a preference. The thing is though as you become more senior in organisations you have to demonstrate you can do both. Managing people is a core skill to progress. Many successful senior leaders have started managing a small team, and then a bigger team and then managing managers who manage a team. In senior functional and corporate roles, and as a member of an Executive team your ability to develop relationships to navigate the political landscape and negotiate what you need to get done will be imperative to your success.
I'm more of an influencer which fits with the roles I have held in the past and now. I can definitely manage a team but I am most comfortable building relationships and using these to help me achieve what I need to get done. My development would be if I get to manage a large team in the future would be how I manage my time getting things done through others.
So what's your preference and where would you focus your development?