From personal experience, I have found that leadership and management are two notions that are often used interchangeably. I’ve always thought of these two concepts as being quite different and a recent discussion wth a collegue got me thinking that the vast majority of those charged with the responsibility for running organizations and developing their talent really don’t have a clue. They are managers.
How it works: A company’s management team generally consists of people who are experienced in their field, and who have worked their way up through the ranks of the company. A manager knows how each layer of the system works and generally possesses a solid technical knowledge. These people have been assigned titles like Senior Manager, Director, Chief, or Vice President. Organizationally, there is a structured hierachy with nested levels of people given a measure of authority within the organization commensurate with their title and position. Of course there are rogue groups out there who buck convention, but nearly all of the organizations that I’ve been part of during my career have followed this tried and true business template.
The ability to lead is just one of the many assets of a truly successful manager. But the converse is not true… An example: Have you met (or heaven help you, worked for) somebody who was a brilliant engineer, and as a result was promoted to manage the group that they once were a member? Over time, it becomes clear that despite their technical prowess, they are a horrible manager. Nobody disputes the fact that this person knows the product and process, but their ability to gain support from and to motivate their team is lacking. The fault isn’t necessarily with the individual who has been promoted, but with the senior management who has made the decision… Those individuals are not equipped to discern whether their choice for that new manager position is going to be a good leader. They are following the process that those who came before them used.
And this is why I will suggest that care must be taken in distinguishing between a leader and a manager. Pure and simple, the main aim of a manager is to maximize the output of the organization through administrative implementation. If that is the mind-set that you are aligned to, then you’ll ue that as a goal when hiring your next manager. Again, from my experience, I’ve found that within organizations, it is not the always the manager who emerges as the leader, rather a subordinate member with specific talents who takes the group in a certain direction. Teams are more likely to extend themselves on the behalf of a these leaders as opposed to the manager.
So, be honest with yourself: If you were stripped of your title and authority, would people still be engaged in supporting the direction that you are charting? The short of this week’s post is that we manage things… cost, time, risk. But we lead people.
Scott Williams is one of us that gets it:
For now, go and be intentional…
Nice post, Jeff. You have explained the difference between a leader and a manager quite nicely…