Friday, December 17, 2010

Management or leadership?

Once you define leadership (see the post "Three Key Leadership Skills," then you can contrast it to management. An organization needs both, of course: leaders to set the course and managers to keep it all togtether.

Here are a few key management skills:

Managers are middle people. Karl Marx's economic analysis noted that managers seem to function as parasites in organizations, since they don't produce anything tangible, as workers do. He predicted that the workers would figure out that they don't need managers and would do away with them.

This is true to a degree. In any organization, the people who make the product or provide the service are the heart of it all. Without them, the manager has no purpose. However, competent managers justify their jobs by helping everyone in the organization to do what needs to be done in an efficient, productive way.

The key management skill is effective communication. He or she is the vital link between the leaderships' vision and the daily living-out of the vision by the organization's people.

This communication can go wrong in a hundred different ways. Incompetent leaders may fail to tell management what the organization's vision is, and to work with management to find ways to fulfill the vision. Alienated people in the organization may not take management's messages seriously, thinking that management is out-of-touch with the daily ins and outs of the organization. Frightened managers may hesitate to communicate if they aren't sure about what's really important in the organization (you;ll find these managers hiding in the offices).

Management is a thankless role. If managers do well, no one notices what they do as everything seems to work effortlessly. If managers fall short, they take blame from above and below.

Key differences between managers and leaders:

1. Leaders see the big picture; managers see the details.

2. Leaders are action-oriented; managers are process-oriented.

3. Leaders "do the right thing;" managers "do the thing right."

Leaders are more visible than managers, usually, so they get more glory. But without managers, the leader would spend so much time keeping the boat afloat they he/she would burn out quickly. Competent management is the crucial link in a successfulorganization.

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