Leadership and Management

I don’t think the attempts to separate leadership and management are useful. I read plenty of things that are variations on Peter Drucker’s:

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

A manager that is not concerned about doing the right things is a lousy manager. And a leader that doesn’t care about doing things right is a lousy leader.

Another theme of this contrasting type quote says some version of:

“Managers care about efficiency and leaders care about effectiveness”

A manager who doesn’t strive to be effective is also a lousy manager. It is also odd to suppose the detached leader (the type that lets the manager deal with the mundane while they dream), one that doesn’t concern themselves with customer focus, value chains, going to the gemba really has a clue about effectiveness. The idea seems mainly to view a manager is a cog looking at some tiny process and making it efficient without understanding the organization as a system or value chains or customer focus.

I think, the main problem is all of the attempts to contrast leaders and managers. Much of the time people are saying managers don’t do things they certainly should be doing.

The desire to express how leadership traits can be used by those without organizational authority are useful. Discussion of how certain traits can be seen as within the domain of leadership I suppose may be useful (it can help our minds see how various traits and practices combine to help get results – and we can categorize these under “leadership”).

Leaders that are primarily “big thinkers” and motivators without a clue about how to actually do the things they advocate (the model of “managers” deal with the implementation with blinders to the system while “leaders” are “above the fray”) is not useful in my opinion. It does note a somewhat common practice (in organizations today) but not one that is wise. Separating leadership from the gemba is not wise. Separating leadership from a deep understanding of customers is not wise. Separating leadership from how the organization actually works is not wise.

Plenty of others seem to disagree with my opinion though, there are many articles, blog posts, podcasts, talks… on separating leadership from management.

Henry Mintzberg makes a good case for my view in The Best Leadership Is Good Management:

It became fashionable some years ago to separate “leaders” from “managers” – you know, distinguishing those who “do the right things” from those who “do things right.” It sounds good. But think about how this separation works in practice. U.S. businesses now have too many leaders who are detached from the messy process of managing. So they don’t know what’s going on.

We’re overled and under-managed.

The 6 Leadership Competencies from my favorite management (or leadership, you can call it either in my opinion) book: The Leader’s Handbook by Peter Scholtes are what any manager or leader should be concerned with.

From Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming, page 248

Actually, most of this book is involved with leadership. Nearly every page heretofore and hereafter states a principles of good leadership of man and machine or shows an example of good or bad leadership.

Most of those dividing up leadership and management would not put most of Out of the Crisis in the leadership domain. I think Deming was right. His book was about leadership. His book is also about management. They are much more the same thing than different things.

I think mentally placing certain traits and practices with leaders instead of managers is harmful. The same is true of saying certain practices are for managers not leaders. The view of the organization as a system and Dr. Deming’s complete management system shows that managers and leaders need to be concerned about the overall system.

Optimizing systems is most effective when the entire picture is considered and addressed. Doing so requires the traits people divide into leadership and management.

Related: The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of menBring Me Solutions Not Problems

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7 Responses to Leadership and Management

  1. Hi Jon

    I think it goes even further you can never really separate managing from leading, they are always interrelated to each other.

    A leader at one level is a manager at another. Take any sports teams there are leaders and managers at the least on three levels. One the general manager who along with ownership defines the overall direction of a team, but they also have to manage those just under them. The next level is the coach who not only has to manage the players but has to also inspire and lead them in a direction based on their skill sets. Lastly are the players who have to take charge in order to execute plays, they have to both lead their team mates, but also mange them, while at the same time performing a role. No one would believe one dimensional people would make up a successful sports team, so why do so many people think one dimensional people can succeed in business.

  2. This is a great article and sums up the over-reliance and short term thinking of the sole-leader, that will save us. Creating a poor management culture that believes that managing the work and the process is unnecessary and undervalued. Thank you.

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  4. James Strock says:

    Fine thought piece; thank you for sharing. Some find it useful to view management as distinct from, yet interrelated to leadership. It’s difficult to conceive of a leader who can be effective without management skills. So, too, managers must have some leadership skill to be effective. Ultimately, management is closer to issues of resource allocation on a daily basis. Leadership must also take a longer view, and can add value through some distance from ongoing management details and decisions.

  5. Sean Cunneen says:

    Thanks for a challenging article. I have never liked the usual contrasting statements of management vs leadership. I usually think of managers as a function with responsibility and authority. Leaders are people with influence.

    I agree that to be a good/effective manager, leadership is essential. However, I think that I have leaders who do not need to be managers. These might be senior staff with lots of experience, or they may be extremely talented within their field. These people influence managers and peers, but choose to remain within their field rather then become managers. Instead they work with and through managers to effect change. These people are also my leaders.

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  7. John, interesting piece. In my experience, some great managers can also be great leaders, and vice-versa, but it’s not common. The emphasis of skills are different. Managers must get others to work, leaders have to get others to follow. Managers must find an individuals strength and accentuate it, leaders have to find common threads that can be used to capture the dreams of many. Communication skills are one to on versus one to many, and one does not communicate the same way with a subordinate as one does to the entire organization.

    I don’t think great leaders can be very effective without good managers. And i agree with you that trying to keep them separated is not valuable, but recognizing the difference in emphasis and skills is important.

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