MANAGEMENT OR LEADERSHIP
March 7, 2011 14 Comments
I am often asked about what is my personal differentiation between management and leadership, and while I believe that a lot of this current discussion on this topic is something to keep academics and consultants busy, I do believe that there is a difference.
Some time ago someone said to me that the difference was that “We lead people and manage things”, and whilst this is simple to say, it is only because it is for simple minds, as I believe that it is wrong.
I believe that in reality we both lead and manage people.
Leadership being doing the right thing involves setting a direction for the future, ensuring that the resources and the culture (behaviours) are aligned with the needed end goals, identifying what has to be changed and how do we go about driving this change.
Once this is done management, being doing things right, then has the role of making this happen against the objectives that have been set and are cascaded through the organisation.
The issue is that I do not believe that this can be as clearly defined or delineated as much discussion, particularly over the last 10 years, tends to imply. Both capabilities are critical for a successful executive and trying to suggest that the CEO needs to be a leader and his direct reports need to be managers, misses the point that they all need to be both at different times.
Too many people confuse being a wonderful, fluent, charismatic and inspiring speaker with being a great leader. I believe that this is the main reason that electorates become quickly disillusioned with elected representatives, whether this is as President of the US or as Lord Mayor of North Sydney. We tend to be attracted to elect people that have the ability to “sing to our hearts” through words and presentation, or just animal charisma and image, with little ability to test whether they actually have the skills to run a national cabinet of ministers or a group of city councillors. Arnold Schwarzenegger won public support for his run for Governor of California because people wanted to believe that his on screen tough-guy persona was the reality of the man needed to slay the state’s budget deficit dragon of the past decade … after all he had done tougher things as “Conan the Barbarian” . The “Governator” recently had to step down with an increased budget deficit of around $ 20 billion that he had had little success in denting, let alone banishing it forever to Cimmeria.
The problem is that the skills needed to win elections are not necessarily those that are needed to run a business enterprise whether this is a country, a city council or a corporation. The needed skills are a blend of great leadership and great management.
Being able to build a compelling, well articulated vision without an ability to execute, is actually worse than having a lesser strategy that can be well executed, though you have to be careful that you are not like the 2 blind men hurrying down the street with absolutely no idea of where they are going, but content in the belief that they are making good time.
Good leaders with little management skills are hoping that the management capability of those below them will ensure successful execution, whilst great managers with little leadership skills create an organisation with good logistics and little excitement. I worked for one CEO who believed that everything in business could be encapsulated in mathematical formulae, and he built his strategies on this premise. He would then not cascade the strategy too much as he had an inherent fear that if his competitors discovered his magic equations they could outmanoeuvre him.
Great leaders need to also be great managers and vice versa, and seeking to separate them for the sake of academic discussion does them both a disservice.