Understanding the difference between governing and leading and knowing which of the two to emphasize and when will make you an effective team member. Organizations that understand this difference and use it appropriately excel.
So what’s the difference between governing and leading?
Thefreedictionary.com says to “govern” means:
1. To make and administer the public policy and affairs of (a state, for example); exercise sovereign authority over.
2. To control the speed or magnitude of; regulate: a valve that governs fuel intake.
3. To control the actions or behavior of: Govern yourselves like civilized people.
4. To keep under control; restrain: a student who could not govern his impulses.
5. To exercise a deciding or determining influence on: Chance usually governs the outcome of the game.
Many countries such as the U.S. have three branches of government: The executive branch (headed by the president), the legislative branch (Congress), and the Judiciary branch (the Courts). Together, these three branches make laws, interpret laws, and implement them. They maintain law and order and create a peaceful framework for individuals to function and for civil liberties to flourish.
What I have described so far is governing. And while some government leaders (whose job is governing) may also lead, leadership is an entirely separate entity from governing.
Leading inspires and empowers the people to dream and pursue a preferable future. Leaders don’t get people to work with them by controlling or coercing. They inspire people to want to do things that will make their futures better. And the leader comes alongside them and shows them how.
Those who govern have the power to punish those who don’t obey the rules and reward those who obey. Those who purely lead have no power to punish. They get people to work by touching their hearts and helping them see a better tomorrow. People become excited to follow the leader because he/she will help them achieve something that they want. The only reward a leader gives the people is the reward of achieving a dream together and making their lives better.
Think of it this way, you are mandated to do what your governing authorities say. There is no choice. If you don’t do what your governors say, you face serious consequences. You could face jail time, financial penalties, lose your job, be dismissed from a school, etc.
You choose to do what the voice of leadership says. You don’t have to do it. And there are no immediate consequences, although your actions may eventually precipitate punishment from those that govern.
Within all relationships – families, friendships, work, etc, the role of governing is important. We need to have and enforce some basic rules that ensure equity within our relationships. That ensures that there are appropriate boundaries and some people aren’t taking advantage of others. Yet, rules don’t transform lives. It’s leadership that does. Leadership breathes new life into relationships, it lightens the heart and brightens the minds and empowers people to become their best.
My advice: Don’t ignore the governing aspect of your relationships. However, focus on the leadership aspect because that’s how relationships grow and thrive. Government builds the roads but leadership drives people from where they are to where they need to go.
My question: Are you leading or governing? In your relationships, what takes most of your time? Is it things that will fall under government or leadership?
Related article: What is leadership?