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Leaders Must Still Manage. You Don’t Get Off That Hook!

Wonderful perspective on keeping "leadership" within the realm of "management."

Wonderful perspective on keeping “leadership” within the realm of “management.”

We found a really thoughtful post on the Harvard Business Review blog a while back, and came back to it recently to absorb its key point:

Leadership remains a part of effective management. You remain the manager in charge of your group even as you become a transformational leader of your employees.

The authors who wrote the post make a very important point, that the Leadership Movement (fueled by books, speakers and other reams of content) seems to give us the impression that great leaders get out of the messy tasks of managing a team, that those pesky “management” drudgeries somehow disappear, or get done happily by freshly engaged employees on your behalf.

Perhaps, but the idea that management and leadership are two separate activities is bunk. The authors spot this, and highlight it, and we as Manager-Leaders need to internalize it:

“Management vs. leadership — it’s a distinction we all hear over and over these days. It says management focuses on getting work done on time, on budget, and on target — in other words,steady execution and control — while leadership focuses on change and innovation.”

 “Some years ago, management was the more inclusive term and included leadership — along with motivating, planning, communicating, organizing and the like — as one of many functions necessary to make groups of people productive.”

We agree with the authors that this separation of leadership from management is erroneous mindset to adopt, and will lead to frustration. Better to take a more realistic mindset to heart:

Becoming a more effective leader does not absolve you of the responsibilities of management. It does makes the responsibility of management both easier and more fun, because everyone on the team is busy finding ways to work smarter, fix lagging processes, create more value for customers and the like.

All the drudgeries of modern corporate life are still there:

  • Reports created and filed on time
  • Cross-silo issues addressed with affected teams
  • Meetings that get nothing accomplished aside from “face time.”
  • Hovering senior executives who are stressed out about results

The list goes on. None of this goes away, and you as the manager-in-charge must manage them on behalf of your team.

How you and your team respond to and deal with all these issues springs from your leadership approach and your team-based employee engagement program.

“To survive and succeed, all groups and businesses must simultaneously change in some ways and remain the same in others. They must execute and innovate, stay the course and foster change. Yes, the guidance, group skills, and mindsets required for serious change and innovation differ from those needed for continuity and steady execution. But that only means those in charge must be able to act as both change agent and steward of continuity, manager and leader, as the situation requires. The challenge is to discern when one versus the other is needed. To idealize leadership and demean management only makes that challenge even harder.”

We could not agree more.

What do you think?

  • How may we help team CTAHas the role of “leader” become separated in your mind from “manager?”
  • Do you see where all the day-to-day tasks of your job can be seen as getting in the way of effective leadership?
  • Have you ever said to yourself “if I could just get out from under all these management tasks, I could lead my group more effectively”?
  • Do you see how that mindset can convert leadership from a part of your management skill set to a replacement of those important skills?


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