Let’s stop debating leader vs. manager

ID-10020361In the Harvard Business Review group on LinkedIn, a member posted this question: “What are the key differentiators that separate a Leader from a Manager?” Really? Are we still asking this meaningless question? Hasn’t this been debated enough and completely settled? The answer is obvious: Leaders lead and managers manage. Just check the dictionary for the definition. The bigger question is: Why do we keep asking this question? Digging deeper into why this question persists, it’s clear that all leaders must also be great managers because execution (for example, management) is part of being a great leader. The tension arises because the reverse isn’t true. Most managers are not leaders because our existing definition of “management” is limited to tactics and transactions. At best, this definition does a marginal job of addressing an organization’s need for growth and innovation, and it isn’t even that effective at meeting transactional metrics. “Management” is so narrowly defined as to be inherently unsatisfying to individuals and organizations, so people seek to make a distinction that will lead to something better. The apparent need for continuing this debate is suggestive of the failure of leadership and leadership development. In our more than 15 years of working with top performers to create organizational “cultures of greatness,” we have done many “manager” programs that almost instantly get changed to “great leader” programs. When these great leader programs are implemented throughout an organization, everyone makes a significant leadership contribution, regardless of their place on the org chart. No one asks whether someone is a leader or a manager because the question becomes irrelevant. Let’s stop debating a meaningless distinction and get on with the process of creating great leadership in all organizations. Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]]>

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