Chapter 9 - Leadership vs. Management – Can this marriage be saved?

NOVEMBER 1, 2011

Chapter 9 - Leadership vs. Management – Can this marriage be saved?

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet. (Theodore Hesburgh)

Dreams have their place in managerial activity, but they need to be kept severely under control. (Lord Weinstock)

To say that this is an ongoing argument in most companies today would be a major understatement.  We’ve all embraced the idea that change is inevitable and that we have to move our employees, our businesses and ourselves in the direction of the future. But just because we all agree that the change is for the better doesn’t make it more likely that we all will reach the destination.

There’s also no question that leaders are needed to focus on the big issues such as five-year plans and bringing new products and services to market.  A good leader is the very definition of a “big picture” person.

On the other hand, most managers are normally responsible for internal factors including physical locations, the hiring, firing and disciplining of employees, training issues, and product (or service) delivery.

Here’s the way I sort it out – more or less.

Leaders are those people asking the questions such as “Where does our future lie? What is the market telling us? When do we need to move? In other words, they spend much of their time thinking about events and concepts that lay beyond the business. They focus outward and are future oriented.

The issues that interest Managers are far more direct; and they usually involve the word “how”. Such as how do we get enough employees to handle the job? Or, how do we implement all the new changes within the given time frame?

Managers deal with issues that are inside the business – keeping the doors open, customer satisfaction issues, and employee problems. Their primary interest is in the immediate future and they are subject to the time pressures of the present.

My opinion is that field management must focus both inward (as managers) and outward (as leaders). For while leadership is necessary to move people from a position of comfort to a newer, riskier environment, management is equally vital to teach them how to get there.

Leadership is demanding and getting more from people than management ever thought possible – Colin Powell