Leadership and Management- Critical Halves of a Powerful Whole
Our business culture has for years emphasized the value of management science. Even today, in a post dot-com economy, the MBA is still one of the most widely pursued graduate degrees. More recently, we have seen much more attention to the subject of leadership. What is of most concern to me as I sit in client meetings is that so few business people can delineate between the two. In short, leadership is often confused with effective management. Or, worse yet, leadership is written off to some intangible set of personality traits or charismatic charm.
In fact, leadership and management are critical halves of an effective and powerful whole. Management provides the execution muscle and top down oversight needed to move any enterprise forward. Leadership creates the vision, strategy and environment in which effective management can operate. Leadership without management sets up a cycle of inability to execute, rendering glowing visions for the future sterile and trivial. Management without leadership creates an endless cycle of projects or processes that either don't matter, don't take root or fail outright.
For most businesses, there is no lack of management. We are trained early on to think like managers, to create logical fiscal arguments for decisions we make. I often watch clients considering a new strategy, acquisition, program or project spend untold resource to build the ROI model needed to make the decision. The result of that effort is often reams of paper containing charts, graphs, analysis and spreadsheets supporting the action in a very rational manner. The meetings to review these documents are deadly dull.
A leader's primary function is to set vision for the organization. Vision is not an ethereal desire or even a goal. Vision entails a clear picture of the future that has emotional and personal charge. Companies must do the analysis- but it will not create the inertia needed for success. People will crawl over broken glass for an idea, but not for a number. To create that kind of motivation, a vision must be clear, emotionally compelling and perceived as possible. That is why leaders must also be skilled planners.
Planning is another domain that presents huge opportunities for leadership to make a difference. John Kotter, and Daniel Cohen, in their recent book, The Heart of Change put it very succinctly. "When you use 'orthodox planning' to create a vision, frustration and failure are inevitable". Project Managers have a task forward view to creating milestones. Leaders keep focus on business outcomes deep into the planning process. This discipline ensures that programs remain connected to strategy and vision. When the path to success is clear from that viewpoint, then project managers can build plans designed for monitoring and control.
Which brings us to another key differentiator. Leadership is concerned with relationship and influence over forceful direction. Skilled leaders understand that the same command and control management needed to keep a program team on track and integrated will not serve to create consensus at the outset amongst senior level stakeholders who can quietly torpedo any initiative. Leaders enroll their peers and even their direct reports, rather than dictating terms and direction. While this may seem an abdication of power and responsibility, it actually creates a much more powerful coalition and governance ability.
Leadership without management is often sterile and ineffectual; however, what we see too often in our climate is an emphasis on management and an utter absence of leadership. The result is often that enormous amounts of money and time are lost on changes that are doomed to fail before they even begin.