Reflections On Leading And Managing

Wherever I go people are always asking me, “What makes a good leader?”  They rarely ask me “What makes a good manager?”  We are not training managers anymore. We encourage and train leaders.  I’ve been reflecting on this phenomenon for some time, and finally am ready to put some words to the page.Perhaps a historical perspective will prove helpful here, particularly to the under forty readers of my blog.  However, do note this is history according to Rosemary. The anti war movement of the 1960’s ushered in negative perceptions of the military particularly command and control.  Up to that time corporate America looked to the military as role models of managing large systems.  Universities conferring graduate degrees in business administration began to flourish in the 1970’s and 80’s and professors began to search for new ways of running large corporations.  Management was associated with militaristic behavior and soon everyone was talking about the importance of leadership.  New books on leadership were showing up in bookstores at a rapid pace and corporations began to hire professors to speak on their latest hypotheses of leadership.  The wave of leadership took on momentum and every magazine and newspaper was writing articles about leadership.  I can recall feeling shunned by colleagues when I tried to make a point about the importance of management. Those of us who distinguished management from leadership, and recognized the importance of effective managerial leadership were out.

Leaders need people to lead, and so concurrent with the wave of leadership came the wave of teams, particularly self-managed teams.  Basically teams with designated leaders who had no authority and accountability over their team members, for the tasks they were being asked to complete.  I recall one woman at Levi Strauss saying to me, “All I want to do is my job.  I don’t want to be on all these teams.”

There are some important distinctions that need to be made between managing and leading.  I for one have always recognized leadership as a component of management.  Managers by definition have certain accountabilities and authorities associated with their roles.  Leadership on the other hand categorizes a group of behaviors that individuals can demonstrate in role but generally are not tied to specific accountabilities, authorities and outcomes.  These characteristics in general are behavioral in nature, but not necessary for one to be effective in role.

Months ago I wrote about a Fortune magazine issue featuring young retiring military personnel being courted by America’s largest corporations for their innovativeness and creativity.  What the article didn’t mention, which is essential, is their understanding of role accountability and authority of their rank as well as the behavioral attributes of leading.  Corporations need to do a better job of articulating the accountability and authority associated with specific roles, particularly managerial roles so that individuals can bring their full capacity (knowledge, skill, experience, style and intellect) to their jobs. It is the integration of management accountabilities and authorities with the individual behavioral characteristics of incumbents in these roles that will help to create “engaged organizations”.

Wishing all a Blessed Easter and Happy Passover!