Sunday, October 29, 2006

Leadership vs Management

We have all seen the lists. You know the ones that define the differences between Managers and Leaders. They go something like this:

Managers have subordinates - Leaders have followers
Managers seek objectives - Leaders seek a vision
Managers rely on careful measurement - Leaders rely on instant feelings
Managers are boring - Leaders are sexy

After a quick look at the list, it is obvious that you want to be a leader. Upon closer examination, it appears that while managers are working in the realm of measurable reality, leaders do ephemeral stuff that isn’t measurable.

Additionally, beyond this immeasurable quality, the leadership hodge-podge of attributes and activities does not seem to have a unifying theme.

Finally, when you see this kind of list you usually find a definition of management and leadership where the central difference between the two is managers work with things while leaders work with people.

A more artificial and manipulative description of any other activity would be difficult to find.

However, if you buy into this line of thinking, it doesn’t take long to realize that regardless of your experience or ability regardless of your organization’s real needs, leadership is the place to be and the Leadership-Industrial Complex is standing ready to serve.

Here in lies a big part of the problem. Most of us are not in the leadership business. Rather, we are in the Healthcare, Auto Parts Sales, Truck Driving, Systems Integration, Farming, Manufacturing, Publishing, Education, Marketing, Any-Conceivable-Activity-Besides-Leadership business.

Unfortunately, feeding the Leadership Otaku is big business and the Leadership-Industrial Complex depends upon this division; it is one of the central tenants of their Conventional Leadership Wisdom. The greater the divide the greater the opportunity to fill the gap with leadership publications, leadership training, leadership conferences, and every other form of leadership think.

The next time you encounter a conversation about the differences between management and leadership; gather up your courage and ask this question, “Can you have one without the other?”

If the answer is, “No, you cannot have one without the other” then point out that the division is artificial and the conversation will not lead to a greater understanding of the challenges faced by your organization.

Now that is an opening to a real conversation.

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Take care…

John

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