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Friday, January 09, 2009

Managing & Leading

An awful lot of secular books get written on both topics. I think there are definitely more books on leadership than managing. Leadership seems to be viewed as some kind of virtue to aspire to. Managing gets relegated to some tactical underdog role.

It would seem that our society doesn't particularly value managing nearly as much. Certainly the authors of the books on leadership feel that leadership is to be aspired to, strived for and admired. Why else would they write the books!

But I wonder how many of us really understand the sometimes subtle differences between managing and leading. When we say someone is "not a leader," we often use a tone of disapproval. Is that really appropriate?

It's been said that leaders embrace and value change. But I notice that managers are required to implement change.

It's been said that leaders originate. But I notice that managing the asset that's originated is critical.

It's been said that leaders proact, and managers react. I notice that sometimes reacting is the best that any human being could be expected to do. Perhaps it's often all that's required.

It's been said that leaders empower, and managers control. Have you ever seen an organization without control? Enforced boundaries definitely have their place.

It's been said that leaders develop people. I'm not so sure. I've known many who were considered to be leaders - and often they are too self centered to develop anyone! Managers, on the other hand, area accused of administering programs (versus developing people). But I notice that people often get developed through programs.

It's been said that leaders see partners and cooperative opportunities, but managers see rivals and competitive threats. It's good to be optimistic, but I notice that reality is sometimes overlooked ... at great expense.

It's been said that leaders wonder why. But I notice that managers ask how. I wonder if one could really exist without the other. Would why have any value if how didn't exist? And if how existed without why, what would be the point?

It's been said that leaders delight customers and managers satisfy customers. You know, I've been a customer most of my life. Rarely do I even want to be delighted. Sometimes I'm a little turned off by the perky approach who things their vacuum cleaner bags are "just awesome!" Satisfaction, I suspect, is worth more than we give it credit for.

It's been said that leaders confront the issues or the problems. But I notice that managers can often work around the issue or problem without the expense or distraction of confronting. I believe this is sometimes a wiser choice.

It's been said that leaders demand better. Better what? Is better really better? Don't we have enough things that are "new and improved?" I notice that some problems just aren't worth solving. I suspect that better can be that way; sometimes better may not really be worth it. Good will be quite sufficient.

It's been said that leader take risks ... with assets, resources, etc. But I notice that managers help evaluate risks, conserve assets are valuable coaches to the risk-takers. Why is it that risk-takers aren't so good at quantifying or measuring risks? Is risk taking really just a "gut level" kind of intuition? If so, I think I want the guidance that managers can provide it.

It's been said that leaders see simplicity. They can break things down. But I notice that managers can see complexity. They can drill down to the nitty, gritty level of detail. Moreover, I believe that true innovations require both. Someone has to see the potential. Someone else has to engineer it.

It's been said that leaders inspire. I think that's true. Most of those I know whom people regard as leaders are inspiring. But I notice that they don't do so well at instructing. Great preachers, for example, aren't usually good disciplers. And vice versa. Here again, could one really exist without the other. Would you want to be inspired --- only to have nobody to teach you?

It's been said that leaders pursue dreams, and that managers perform duties. And there you have it. The true value proposition for leaders versus managers. Society doesn't find duties to be sexy or attractive. Dreaming is considered to be much more rewarding, more fun and something we'd all rather do.

Now, what kind of a world do you think will result from pursuit of dreams - at the expense of duties and obligations? I think it's high time we stop drawing such a value boundary between leaders and managers. It seems clear to me that God gifted different people with different gifts for a reason: they're all necessary and worthwhile.

Isn't it time we shift the social paradigm on leaders versus managers?

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