The current state of business management is one in which we are over-led and under-managed. People are attracted to the glamor of leadership and they spurn what they consider the banalities of management. Both leaders and managers determine business success, but the problem is that we have gone overboard. We’re overemphasizing leaders, and no one wants to be a manager. Without balance — without both leaders and managers working together to steer the ship — we’re headed for an iceberg.
To make matters worse, many people who praise leaders’ importance do not offer a clear definition of leadership. There are thousands of books on leadership, but the discussion revolves around why leadership is important, how leadership looks, how leaders lead, and so on. I have yet to encounter a clear, standard definition of what leadership is.
Everyone wants to be a leader, but nobody is totally sure what that means. The result? We have too many leaders, and too few good leaders. The lack of definition blurs the lines between leadership and management, so we end up with leaders doing management work and managers doing leadership work.
There are important differences between leadership and management. When managers and leaders are doing each other’s jobs, we have jacks-of -all-trades, but masters of none.
We don’t have a common understanding of what makes a leader, but here is where I draw the line between leaders and managers: leaders are more detached; they sketch out the big-picture objectives and guide the business from above. On the other hand, managers deal with people; their job is to get employees to fully apply their skills to the company’s goals and objectives.
We are over-led: we have too many people vying to control the big picture. But we need managers to do the day-to-day, one-on-one work of fostering and guiding talent — to bring out the best in employees. Without managers, it doesn’t matter how impressive your leader’s vision is: no vision can be executed without people working hard to make it happen.
The balance between leadership and management is crucial and that means understanding the clear differences between the two. A successful company has leaders and managers. These days, though, we have more leaders than we need, and we can’t seem to find enough great managers.