— A rose by any other name…

Synonyms. Don’t you just love ‘em?

Some examples:

Word             Synonym
Bossy               controlling
Fair                  unbiased
Honest            trustworthy
Handsome     kevin
Intelligent      smart
Mean               bad-tempered

We use a lot of words interchangeably. Sometimes we’re accurate, and the different words mean substantially the same thing. Other times, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride: “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

In this brief article, I’ll introduce five word pairs of words that many managers use as synonyms. The problem is, they simply are not synonymous, and the real meanings matter. In some cases, bigly. In future articles, I’ll address each word pair in detail, fleshing out some of the nuances and meanings, and providing examples for relevance and application.

Today, however, I’m just going to give you the word pairs and a teaser description to get you thinking. Plus, it’ll be fun to imagine your head exploding when you disagree with my abbreviated descriptions. More to come…

Let’s start with the big kahuna:

Leadership == Management

In all fairness, I believe the absolute argument between these is largely academic; specifically, however, it’s important to know the difference, if only so we can better understand who does what to whom.

Leadership is about positively influencing others toward a shared vision.

Management is predetermined and repetitive. It’s controlling a process.

Both are necessary, but they aren’t synonyms.

Accountability == Responsibility

This pair is probably the most abused of all. They sound so… so… similar. They must be synonyms, right?

Yeah, no. And the difference is huge.

Accountability is ownership of a specific result. It’s one-deep; no multiple people accountable for the same thing.

Responsibility is accomplishing a task(s) leading to a result. Lots of folks can be responsible for things, only one is accountable.

Empowerment == Delegation

I used to believe these were on the same continuum. I was wrong, they are entirely different, and that difference is significant and important.

Empowerment is bigger, added autonomy in existing work.

Delegation is more, doing someone else’s task or job.

Both are useful, and effective developmental tools. They aren’t synonyms.

Passion == Emotion

These can be confusing, since some errant dictionaries include as synonyms. In leadership parlance, they certainly are not.

Passion is controlled reactions.

Emotions are uncontrolled reactions.

Close, but no cigar.

And finally, Teams == Groups

In all fairness, people don’t often use these interchangeably; they just use them incorrectly, calling something a “Team” when they should be saying a “Group.”

A Team requires trust that another person will contribute to your success.

A Group just requires an org chart.

These two aren’t even on the same planet, yet “Team” is one of the most frequently misused terms in any organization. Most teams, simply put, aren’t. We like the word, but resist the heavy lifting required to make it accurate.

These are just a few, and my descriptions are far from complete, though I believe them to be defensibly accurate. I’ll flesh them out in future editions of At C-Level.

Email me at kevinb@triangleperformance.com with comments; I’ll address one or two of the specific word pairs next month, and it would be interesting to hear your inputs.

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