A little bit of a rant this week. Recently there’s been a fair bit of chatter on LinkedIn and elsewhere debating the differences between a manager and a leader. It seems important to some people – typically those that see it as some sort of hierarchical transition. I have thrown my two-cents worth into the ring by stating “good managers lead and good leaders manage”. Surely it is an anachronistic folly to think that a manager can somehow be effective without demonstrating leadership qualities and, likewise, that a leader can get away with ignoring sound management practice.
So, what’s the issue here? Let’s turn to our trusty dictionary for guidance. A leader is “a person who guides or inspires others to achieve a common goal”. Whereas a manager is “someone that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization or initiative to accomplish a goal.” [Wikipedia]. Well, there’s a clear overlap in those definitions for sure and it’s notable that leadership crops up as part of the management definition.
Many people seem drawn to the argument that whilst a manager “ensures things are done right” a leader “ensures the right things are done”. Well, that may have been true in the novels of Dickens but we’ve moved on a bit from there – haven’t we? Should a manager blindly do a good job of something non-one wants or needs or is otherwise ill advised? Should a leader blindly set wild and unattainable targets without considering how they might actually be achieved?
The solution seems pretty obvious to me. Take a holistic view and embrace the skills and disciplines needed by both interpretations thereby transcending the argument altogether.
In my opinion a blended approach is vital to build momentum, maintain alignment, respond quickly to change or discoveries, ensure accountability, help teams grow and remove those blocks. Management and leadership are service functions that exist in a continuum. Their purpose is to inspire, enable and support those that actually get stuff done. So, how about focusing on that and spending less time searching for distinctions that add no value?
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” — Abraham Lincoln