Designing Your Career: Reality Checks and Evolving Into Experimentation
What Have You Changed Your Mind About Lately?

Are You a Manager or a Leader When it Comes to Your Career?


One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Peter Drucker:

Management is doing things right.

Leadership is doing the right things. 

As I work with people in thinking about their careers, what I notice is that people spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage themselves and their work. They are focused on doing things right for their current job. They focus on:

  • Responding  to the needs of their current employer so they get great performance reviews and advance in their careers.
  • Meeting (or preferably exceeding) the performance objectives that their employers have set for them. 
  • Developing the skills that their employer tells them that they need to do their current jobs well. 

There's nothing wrong with this, of course. To keep your job, you need to be good at it.

But what happens is that  in our focus on career management, we lose sight of career leadership

In other words, while we are worrying about doing things right, we aren't taking the time to question if we are doing the right things.


Too often what I find is that while people were focused on dotting all the "i's" and crossing all the "t's," the landscape around them was changing. 

Suddenly, they are doing work that doesn't play to their strengths. 

Or the requirements and demands of their occupation or industry have drastically changed and they haven't been keeping up.

Or their organization closes and they find themselves adrift in a crappy job market.

Or they wake up one morning, look around, and ask "Is this really all there is for me with work?"

Career management doesn't cut it in today's economy. We need to become  leaders in our own lives. 

Stop asking "Am I Doing Things Right?" and start asking "Am I Doing the Right Things?" 

See how life begins to shift . . . 


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Thank you for your post Michele, I always enjoy reading well thought-out pieces like this one. I'm under the impression a lot of people do not pay enough attention to their personal development and being in touch with their abilities and goals, even despite the obvious significance of these problems.

Thanks, John! Lately I've found myself asking this question a lot--"Am I doing the right things?" and seeing that it really creates a shift in my thinking about my work. But I work for myself, so in a way, I have that luxury. I think it's a lot harder when you work for other people--that seems to automatically create a situation where there's a big focus on managing, rather than leading.

I think you may be right, Michele. However, while I do understand the difference between leadership and management, is good management necessarily a bad thing?

Good management is definitely a good thing. But I think you have to start with making sure that you are actually focused on managing the right work. Sometimes this isn't as clear as we think it is.

I like the way you put it, Michele, I think that explains and closes the case perfectly. We just tend to be so preoccupied with tasks at hand we stop focusing on the bigger picture.

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