Management is Not Dead

One of the oldest debates in the world has to do with management vs. leadership. There seems to be a prevailing belief they are archenemies like the Joker and Batman. In truth, management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. Different in essence, yet there are some commonalities. Without both, sustained success is impossible.
I’ve been asked about this topic throughout my career. Honestly, I’ve avoided writing or teaching about it. My focus has been on leadership. In retrospect, this could have been a mistake. However, my logic was, and still is the same: Most organizations I encounter in the marketplace and in the non-profit sector are over managed and under led. That’s one reason I’ve devoted myself to encourage and equip leaders.
Management vs. leadership is a touchy subject. Leaders tend to get the limelight and managers not so much. Therefore, there is sometimes a misplaced and inaccurate belief leadership is more important. That is not true – both are essential.
To further complicate the subject, I’ve met very few pure leaders or pure managers. Most of us have a good measure of both in us. Also, many of the activities of both professions are shared; thus my opening analogy about two sides of the same coin. As an example, great leaders and great managers both value people and treat them with honor, dignity and respect. So, is that a management practice or a leadership practice? Yes! Both.
A final example… A short stop and a catcher on a baseball team, can both run, throw and catch. These activities are common between them. However, they play very different positions. That’s the way I think about management and leadership. There are certainly some common practices, but the roles are fundamentally different. I’ll highlight a few of the different contributions each brings to table.
Leaders                                           Managers
See the future                                     Create the future
Focus on what can be                       Focus on what is
Create change                                     Create stability
Comfortable with ambiguity           Prefer the concrete
Embrace uncertainty                         Prefer certainty
Enjoy variety                                       Value consistency
Think  goals                                         Think budget
Focus on strategy                                Focus on tactics
See opportunity                                  See obstacles
Drive for innovation                          Focus on improvement
Ignore boundaries                              Impose boundaries
Create chaos                                        Create order
Here’s the point – our organizations need BOTH. Don’t make the mistake of over-valuing either. The tension created when managers and leaders work together is needed! In tension there is inherent power and energy. Help your people find their unique contribution and create a culture where both are valued and nurtured.tweet_bird
One more thought, since this site is dedicated to leadership, you may have that bias. If that’s true of you, the next time you’re in a meeting and someone with a managerial bias has an idea that you find totally foreign to your way of thinking, thank him or her; and then listen intently. There’s wisdom in their words.[GLS_Shield]
What would you add to the two lists above?
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment



Luis Flores

6 years ago

Nice post, I think of myself as a manager trying to learn leadership. In your “The secret” book, jeff would be leader and manager, is that right? I mean, he can see the future, and also create it. I’m not sure if I got that right.

Mark

6 years ago

I think most leaders are a mixture of manager and leader. You are correct, Jeff was a composite as well. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Kimberlee Yee

6 years ago

As part of our Leadership program, we agree with your points that there are definite differences between Leaders and Managers; however, we teach that as a leader, you need to often make a balance between both. Yes, it is important to create change and look to the future, but you also need to get the day to day realities accomplished. We are often asked to do more than our job description describes, and we grow based on learning to use both styles effectively and when the right balance can be achieved.

Mark

6 years ago

I agree! The best leaders understand the breadth of our role. There are many times we will need to wear both the manager and leader hat to be successful. The trick is to stay in your sweet spot as much as possible. None of us maximize our contribution playing to our weaknesses. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Paul

6 years ago

Great post Mark.
Here are some potential additional thoughts to chew on… Let me know what you think?
Leaders Evolve Process | Managers Ensure Process
Leaders explore outside the box | Managers stay inside the box
Leaders are willing to accept the risk | Managers help mitigate the risk
Leaders attend to what matters | Managers inhibit what doesn’t
Leaders create a vision | Managers execute the vision

Mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Paul. Your list adds further clarity to the differences between managers and leaders. We certainly need both skill sets for our organizations to thrive. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Kelly Rider

6 years ago

Thank you for this post – as a leader and a new manager for our team, this article clearly articulates the struggle that I often find myself in with handling the expectation for me to be heads up as a leader and heads down as a manager. Playing both roles is difficult to balance and is something I continue to work on for my development journey.

Mark

6 years ago

The tension is real! All leaders should feel it. But, it is a tension to be managed, not eliminated. If we eliminate the struggle, we are overvaluing one skill set while devaluing the other. Continue to manage the tension. The best leaders are both “heads up” and “heads down.” Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

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