Leadership vs. Management – Why Not Both?

Journeys in Construction

Leadership vs. Management – Why Not Both?

Leader one way, Manager the other way, direction signs.

“Let’s stop the dysfunctional separation of leadership from management. We all know that managers who don’t lead are boring and dispiriting, while leaders who don’t manage are distant and disconnected.”

— Henry Mintzberg, Harvard Business Review (2004)

There has long been a trend to say something like, “Managers do that, but Leaders do this.” I’ve found that trend to be shallow sometimes, though it can be insightful.

If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a while, you’ve probably seen a variety of those posts. I’ve seen a few that are cringe-worthy, some purporting that the person posting it is a great leader and managers are not cool.

"Be a 'leader,' not a 'manager."

One of the worst leaders / bad managers who I’ve ever worked with posted that stuff often. He fancied himself to be a great leader of his little department and avoided managing. Eventually, almost everyone else figured out that he lacked in both leadership and management skills, and he got fired.

I heard that he had a hard time getting a job after that. I suppose he was more interested in pretending than actually improving. Anyway, I hope he got better.

[Rant over]

Some of those posts that I’ve seen are more about “Boss vs. Leader,” which is a similar, but different, issue. That is not exactly what I’m writing about now.

In fairness, a lot of the “Manager vs. Leader” posts make sense and I know that many people “get” the difference, as well as recognizing the value of both.

It is important to understand the distinctions between management and leadership. I think they are summarized well in this quote:

“You manage things, you lead people.”

— Grace Murray Hopper

Some jobs involve more management of things, and other jobs involve more leadership of people.

“Managers today must be able to ‘lead people,’ not just ‘manage things.’  People are not things; people do not respond well to being treated as things.”

— Patricia Hatley 

Some people want to be motivational speakers who avoid managing details. Some want to manage their own work and not others. Some do well at both leadership and management.

People change over the course of their careers. Each person seeks balance in their job or ends up trying to find a job that suits them.

Using one’s strengths, as well as improving one’s weaknesses, are keys to success. Leadership and management are both important and should be encouraged and developed to the fullest extent that individuals are willing and able.

Why not both?


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