On Management

Dec. 21, 2004
Leadership matters. So does the

I get e-mail from readers around the world. One recent message came from a Greek M.B.A. student studying in Manchester, England. He wrote: I read your article in IndustryWeek. . . .You stated, as do most of the books, that "management of 'things' is important, but leading people is more important," and that "leadership is an important job of management." The question that I have is that, if there are differences between leadership and management, why does it matter? Most of the books state that leadership is "getting others to follow you" and management is the process of or-ganizing, planning, control, and coordination. But are those differences so important? My answer, spontaneously typed into an e-mail that day, was: I believe there is a most definite difference, and it matters greatly. Let me use a simple example to illustrate both the difference and why it is important. Suppose there is a trip to be taken. Management deals with planning, organizing, and selecting the itinerary; time to be spent at each place; budgets; goals and objectives (i.e., what is to be learned); and so forth. Leadership has to do with motivating those who might take the trip and communicating that the trip is worth taking; that its goals have meaning for them; and that its purpose is consistent with their individual and collective missions and visions. It is a very large, important difference. One can be a good manager and not a very good leader. Some leaders are not very good managers, but if they are smart, they will surround themselves with good managers. They understand that one responsibility of the leader is to see that the endeavors they choose to lead are managed in a way that will ensure the highest likelihood of success. People who are "managed" well may lack the inclination to put forth the kind of effort necessary for success -- unless they have good leaders. Great leaders get extraordinary results from ordinary people. Great managers simply get well-planned and sometimes well-executed outcomes, but seldom the huge successes that arise from the passion and enthusiastic commitment inspired by true leadership. Leaders are the architects. Managers are the builders. Both are necessary, but without the architect, there is nothing special to build. As I thought about this topic, I recalled recently reviewing Bernie Nagle and Perry Pascarella's book, Leveraging People and Profit -- The Hard Work of Soft Management (1997, Butterworth-Heinemann). "Our traditional organizations," the authors state, "are ineffective in dealing with the paradoxes of leveraging both profit and people, of attending to both the hard and soft factors, and meeting the needs of business and society." Their book salutes leaders who create "value-producing organizations" and "value-building communities" through their conspicuous regard for others. Our M.B.A. programs in the U.S. are the best in the world. Still, there is an aspect of business they teach poorly or not at all -- "soft management." Teaching the "hard" stuff -- technology, financial analysis, work flow -- is the easy part. These topics yield to logic and analysis. The "soft" stuff is the hard part. The M.B.A. programs should teach these concepts, but only the best ones are beginning to do so. Don't think for a minute that soft management cannot also be tough-minded, goal-oriented, determined, highly competitive, and a lot more. The competitive world is a tough place. Only the fittest survive, and the competitive market decides who that will be. There is a very simple explanation why attention to soft management is important -- it works! Treat people with respect and dignity and you can demand a lot from them. When it works, you feel good about how it worked. And that may be the greatest success of all. John Mariotti is president of The Enterprise Group, Knoxville, and author of The Shape Shifters: Continuous Change for Competitive Advantage. His e-mail address is: [email protected].

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