Managers vs. Leaders – The Debate Continues

A half-century ago Peter F. Drucker – who is considered to be the most influential management thinkers of all time – brought the practice of management to the forefront; and other notables have been trying to ‘one-up’ him ever since. The debate will continue long after you have finished reading this blog post. But I wanted to take this opportunity to state my position on the subject. I’ve spent 40 + years managing and leading people, and based on my experiences I believe the two: managers and leaders, have more in common with one another – then not. They are mutually inclusive of one another – not mutually exclusive of one another, in spite of what some leadership experts would have us believe. The lines between the two are definitely blurred – if not disappearing all together.

Warren Bennis – a renowned leadership expert (and Professor and Founding Chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California) – cites integrity, dedication, magnanimity, humility, openness and creativity as the six qualities of a leader. Henry Kissinger (who served as National Security Advisor and later as Secretary of State in the administrations of USA President’s Nixon and Ford) said that the task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. Walter Bond – a former NBA player who is considered to be one of the World’s preeminent experts on personal accountability – refers to micro-management as one of the most common forms of leadership.

Now, who am I to disagree with the likes of a Bennis, Kissinger or Bond? After all I’ve only written one book on the subject – collectively they have written some of the most respected books on leadership. But it seems to me they could have just as easily been talking about the attributes of a manager as opposed to a leader. I know we can separate managing and leading conceptually – but in practical terms – should they be, or can they be, separated at all? How would you like to be managed by someone who doesn’t know how to lead? How would you like to be led by someone who doesn’t know how to manage themselves or others?

Do we manage more than we lead or lead more than we manage? Is there really that much of a difference between the two to even bother trying to justify one over the other? I think 21st Century Managers need to be able to do both well. I believe those two titles are interchangeable. I don’t think you can be one without being the other and vice-versa. The role of Manager and Leader is situtationally based. You have to ensure that the day-to-day things that need to get done to make the organization work are being done (that’s managing). But you also need to spend some of your time thinking about where the organization needs to go to stay competitive and to maintain or grow market share (that’s leading).

“Leadership cannot simply delegate management; instead of distinguishing managers from leaders, we should be seeing managers as leaders, and leadership as management practiced well” so suggests Henry Mintzberg (Professor Mintzberg is an international renowned academic and author of a number of books on business and management). I’m with Henry on this one. Forget about being a leader – practice managing well and people will want to follow you. If you can’t communicate, educate and delegate effectively and get people to buy into what you are saying and doing – then it really doesn’t matter what title you have.