Every so often, someone declares “We don’t need managers, we need leaders.” Statements like this imply that people are either one or the other, and that management is somehow less valuable than leadership.

I don’t buy the idea that management and leadership are mutually exclusive or that one is more valuable than the other.

Organizations need BOTH.

John Kotter lists these different management and leadership activities in a number of his books. I paraphrase here:

Management is…

  • Establishing timetables and steps for achieving needed results and allocates resources to make it happen
  • Creating structure, staffing and delegating responsibility and authority to accomplish goals
  • Monitoring results, identifying deviations; planning and organizing to solve problems
  • Producing key results expected by various stakeholders

    Leadership is…

  • Establishing direction, developing a vision for the future
  • Aligning people, modeling the vision, influencing, creating teams and coalitions
  • Inspiring people to overcome barriers to change by satisfying basic human needs
  • Producing useful change

    Effective people are able to do things from both lists. The emphasis may shift – more “leadership” actions and behaviors in some positions and situations, more “management” actions and behaviors in others.

    I’ve worked with people who were all “leadership.” When they lacked management behaviors – follow-through and attention to practical implementation –they left chaos in their wakes (and didn’t actually produce much useful change).

    I’ve worked with people who were mostly “management.” And in some cases, it worked okay, as long as they had enough personal warmth to navigate human relationships. (In accounting areas, you don’t necessarily want creative ideas or big charisma – think Enron.)