Do you aspire to be a good manager or a good leader? Is there a difference? Webster
defines management as, "the act, art, or manner of managing, or handling, controlling, directing, etc". He defines leadership as, "the position or guidance of a leader, the ability to lead, the leaders of a group." That may not be as helpful as his definition of lead, "to show the way to, or direct the course of, by going before or along with, conduct, guide". It is popular today to extol leadership over management, but which is right for your organization?
Good managers tend to be organized, assertive, and risk avoiders. They strategize well and maintain focus on planned goals. Their goals arise out of necessities rather than desires and are deeply embedded in their organization's history and culture.
Managers seek order and control and are almost compulsively addicted to disposing of problems even before they understand their potential significance. A derogatory term used to describe their method of operation as, "ready, fire, aim".
Organizations provide succession to power through the development of managers rather than individual leaders. This leads to some confusion of what we mean by leaders as we have both individual contributors and those who display collective leadership. So what do we mean by leadership?
Abraham Zaleznik in Harvard Business Review stated business leaders have much more in common with artists than they do with managers. They orchestrate the movement of the organization. They are risk takers. Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower were both displayed traits of leaders in their early years. One can argue that they continued to be risk takers in their careers, especially MacArthur, but Eisenhower is known as a great manager. MacArthur's landing at Inchon during the Korean conflict was thought to be a stroke of genius at the time but provoked the Chinese to enter the war. Steve Jobs is another example of a leader but not a manager. Leaders are dreamers; they envision "what could be" rather than "what
is." They are active instead of reactive, shaping ideas instead of responding to them.
They best boss of my career, a great leader, had a favorite saying, "Never let company policy take the place of good judgment." Leaders tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are prepared to keep answers on hold to avoid premature closure on important issues.
Managers relate to people according to the role they play in a sequence of events or in a decision making process. Leaders are more concerned with ideas, relate in more intuitive and emphatic ways. Managers strive to convert win-lose into win-win situations as part of the process of reconciling differences among people and maintaining balances of power. The distinction is simply between a manager's attention to how things get done and a leader's to what the events and decisions mean to participants.
Human relations in leader-dominated structures often appear turbulent, intense, and at times even disorganized. They challenge status quo. Such an atmosphere often produces unanticipated outcomes, and maybe, just maybe, a breakthrough for your business.
Which is best for your organization? The standard answer for consultants to all problems is, "It depends". I know because I am one. One thought is a combination, or possibly a parallel structure that can accommodate both. Can leaders be developed or are they born? Can managers learn to be leaders? Can leaders learn to be managers? The truth is we are born with certain personalities, but we can all learn and some of both traits are needed. We need to make sure our advancement structure in our organization values this combination.