At the team level and throughout organizations of all sizes, a lot of good management is taking place. The problem
is that we often refer to that good management as “leadership.” By doing so, we confuse the people who are really doing the hard work of day-to-day, face-to-face interface with employees, the people who make sure that every employee has everything required to be successful.
The fact that we’re obsessed with leadership
means that we often fail to acknowledge the good work of great managers. Therefore, managers don’t spend as much of their energy on perfecting the discipline of management. Instead, they try to show themselves as good leaders—though the job really does not call for that.
Part of the reason why so much rhetoric and conversation deals with the leadership obsession is because people don’t really understand the differences between leadership and management—or why management still matters.
Big Picture and Hands Off: the Leader’s Role
Leaders in organizations of all sizes serve a detached role.
Their job is to point all members of the organization in the direction that the organization is going.
For instance, look at a major company like Procter & Gamble. The leaders of that organization have one message for all of their employees: We’re focused on trusted brands. Do whatever you can do to help develop and promote a trusted brand.
The same holds true for mid-sized organizations. Many organizations have overall leadership goals such as growing market share or improving visibility in the markets. The leader’s job is to rally everyone around these high-level goals by consistently keeping these goals in front of them.
But when you get deeper into the organization, everybody starts asking the same question: What do I, specifically, do to produce that outcome?
That’s where managers come in.
One-on-One and Supportive: the Manager’s Role
People working inside organizations need guidance and support. The manager’s job
is to make sure that all employees have the guidance and support they need to contribute to the high- level leadership goals.
Support looks like a lot of things—providing the right tools and equipment, paying the right salary, etc.—but support also means creating the right type of environment for employees to contribute to the best of their ability. Companies hire employees for their particular skills, mindsets, and perspectives. Managers help employees figure out how they use their specific qualities to contribute to leadership goals.
Managers support employees by creating environments where they feel trusted and where they feel they can trust the leaders and managers of the organization. Managers make sure that employees know their performance and contributions matter.
When we over-emphasize leadership, problems often arise at the team level. Team leaders serve dual roles: they are both leaders and managers. However, roughly 90 percent of their job is management. Their main focus needs to be on employee support. Only 10 percent of a team leader’s job is repeating the goals set by higher-level leaders. However, the leadership obsession also pushes team leaders to lead more than they manage—meaning employees don’t get the support they need to succeed and contribute to the business.
This is why management still matters. The role of a manager is the lynchpin of effectiveness for organizations of any size. Without managers to support, encourage, and develop employees, an organization will never achieve the level of success that it’s looking for.