Leadership - so desired, yet so misunderstood. The confusion is due to its juxtaposition, commingling, and blurring with managership. Managers simply don't know where one stops and the other begins.
Thus, managers continue to misjudge the distinction between the needs of the organization (requiring managership) and the desires of the people they supervise (requiring leadership). Moreover, managers are made to feel inadequate for not being more attentive to people; that is, not exercising enough leadership. Magazine articles and books that evangelize leadership are more likely to be describing managership. Thus, much of the "leadership development" industry is on the wrong side of the divide, and the word "leadership" is in danger of becoming meaningless.
Managers (and teachers of managers) need to understand that leadership and managership are different roles, requiring very different responsibilities, demanding very different expectations, and calling for very different abilities. Managers are able to meet situations more directly and with less frustration when they distinguish absolutely between managerial responsibility and leadership opportunity.
Most people think of a leader as the person who states a vision, creates excitement among people to believe in the vision, and then directs actions to accomplish the vision. (Add, too, the leader enshrined in a cloak of charisma reflected in the eyes of enthusiastic and optimistic followers.)
Stating a vision and creating excitement is what a leader does, but directing actions to accomplish the vision crosses the line into a manager's job. For example, leaders are typically hailed as forcing their organizations to face new challenges. Not so - managers force; leaders do not.
It's nice to be a manager and a leader at the same time. However, the moment when organization members enthusiastically embrace what's good for the organization because it matches their desires, is best viewed as a coincidence not to be expected very often. Should a manager really expect to sell organization stability that requires some members to be laid off?
Confusing the understanding of managership and leadership even more, leadership is sometimes used to connote a positive behavior, whereas managership is presented as a less worthy or even negative approach. Exercising leadership is not the same as doing the "right" thing or the "good" thing. Leadership is not a wiser posture than managership, or a substitute for managership, or a kind of managership.
Learning and applying leadership strategies and behaviors will not make managers better managers, because the abilities required of a manager are distinctly different from the abilities required of a leader. Managership fulfills the purpose of the organization; leadership involves people in the process of fulfilling the purpose.
The role of a manager must not be denigrated to enhance the charisma of leadership. "The manager is [insert bland word] but the leader is [insert hyperbole]." To belittle managership to imply a magnificence associated with leadership insults the responsibility and performance of managers, makes leaders more than they are, and perpetuates the myth of leadership.
Leadership is not a pervasive quality that lifts an organization to new heights and great achievements. The guy on the horse who leads the charge not only deserves the distinction of being a lousy manager but also earns the opportunity to get killed first.
Leadership and managership defined
Leadership is the ability to articulate a vision and gain support for it. Leadership ends, so to speak, where managership takes action to accomplish the vision. Being a leader means having an emotional bond with followers.
Together, leaders and followers are kindred spirits who believe in the same vision and values. A leader speaks to peoples' needs and desires. However, people give their consent only to the promise of actions, not to the actions themselves, because the actions are yet to be taken. Visions and actions are not the same thing.
Managership is the ability to define and accomplish an organization's purpose by studying needs; evaluating resources; setting goals and objectives consistent with the purpose and resources; and planning, directing, and evaluating actions designed to reach the goals and objectives.
When leaders continue after stating a vision to manage the accomplishment of the promise, they enter a new role that may require decisions not perfectly consistent with the vision and values promised. Typically, trouble is not far behind the switch in role from leader to manager. A decision required of a manager will eventually place the needs of the organization ahead of the desires of the people, a separation that will break the leadership bond.
Most prescriptions for exerting leadership assume a downward influence on followers because most views of leadership are erroneously based in the authority of the manager. A manager is typically encouraged to become a leader by sharing his or her authority. But a leader's base of authority is not the same as a manager's. Whereas the manager's authority is granted by the organization, the leader's authority is granted by followers. Following this line of reasoning, such terms as "formal" leader or "appointed" leader or "institutional" leader - where leadership authority is granted by the organization - are oxymorons.
Three major lessons of leadership as a visionary force that is separate from managership as a productive force are
1| A manager who wants to apply leadership strategies and behaviors must stand for a sincere vision. Leadership must be grounded in the true beliefs of followers - the Fourth Wall of leadership where the actor's portrayal meets the audience's reality. A manager must be cautious of leadership rhetoric that can be embarrassingly separated from managerial reality when it sets in. A manager should explore visions to which organization members can subscribe, but should abandon attempts at agreement that fall short of sincerity and reality or that are appealing only in the moment.
For example, a new manager may be brought in to establish new directions for an organization. Immediately, the stage is set for disagreement and confrontation if the new directions deviate from comfortable policy and programs.
Predictably, however, a unilateral action will cause bad feelings if the new directions are not agreeable to organization members. Anticipating disagreement and confrontation, or even not, the manager might instead use leadership strategies and behaviors by floating the new directions as possibilities. In this way, various options can be developed, aired, and evaluated, and perhaps, agreement between the new manager and organization members can be forged.
The manager can predetermine the degree of participation in the decision-making process. For example, the manager might state the new direction and her preference for action, and then ask for reactions. Or, the manager might state the new direction and ask for ideas for action. Or, the manager might start without a stated new direction and ask about the issues facing the organization.
Here's the leadership danger: By feigning interest in building rapport and agreement with organization members (that is, by promising something that he or she has little or no intention of delivering or that is unlikely to be delivered), the manager risks losing the leadership stature that could be used to move the organization forward in human terms to accomplish the organization's purpose.
2| Leadership depends on managerial action for fulfillment of a vision and values. Managership is results based. A manager must move from establishing a commitment to a vision to actions that will enact the vision. Vision and action must be viewed as a leadership-to-managership process. A manager uses leadership behaviors to build rapport, then follows up with managership behaviors necessary to accomplish the vision. The process is not linear, of course. The two sets of behaviors, leading and managing, move from one to the other as needed.
3| Leadership and managership are fluid and distinct states that exist in moments - switching quickly from one posture to the other. A word, an inflection, or even a glance will signal a leadership behavior or a managership behavior. The two postures can be planned distinctly.
For example, the different postures might be enacted as follows: [starting with a managerial posture] "As you know, we are facing tough times ahead. We need to become more efficient, and we need to reduce costs. There's no question in my mind that [switch to leadership posture] this team can accomplish all that needs to be required. [back to being a manager] I have developed goals and steps to accomplish these goals that I believe will make us not only viable, but will put [now using leadership words] us in a more competitive position. There will be some [managerial reality] tough times ahead, but [leadership encouragement] we will get through them together. I welcome your suggestions as we move forward."
The manager's goal is to balance organization requirements and member desires. It is not lopsided to say that the organization exists first, in charter, with more fundamental rights. However, it is equally not lopsided to say that organization members give life to the actions of the organization and are entitled to member rights - consideration and fulfillment of their needs and expectations where possible.
Neither a manager nor the people will agree with or be able to include all of the differing solutions into the fulfillment of an organizational vision. Fulfillment of organization goals and objectives is better when both the manager and organization members carefully and openly examine different solutions and build agreement around implementation.
A manager will have to set aside organization members' personal desires from time to time to accomplish organization goals. In other words, the manager will have to act arbitrarily. However, organization members are likely to set aside their personal desires to work toward organization goals if they know that at other times their needs and ambitions will not only be considered but will be met.
Managers who want to be leaders
The acclaim given to a leader can be both breathtaking and intimidating. Reading the sales pitches and content of leadership development programs, or trying to follow the prescriptions of ebullient books regarding the achievements of "great leaders" (usually hard-driving managers) is daunting to most managers.
On the contrary, adding leadership strategies and behaviors to managerial talent is within easy reach of "ordinary" managers once they realize that they do not have to be heroes all of the time. The separation of leadership opportunities (I'd like them to agree with me) from managership responsibilities (I've got to get the job done) is a guilt-free psychological relief that experienced managers wish they had learned early in their careers.
Bottom line: Manage or lead? It depends on whose needs are more demanding at the moment - those of the organization or those of the people. However, managing and leading is a continuum, one to the other - not in the same instant, but fitting together neatly.
When a manager does not rely only on his or her authority to accomplish organization goals, he or she has the opportunity to develop leadership strategies and behaviors. The strategy is collaboration; the behavior is acceptance. Managers employ leadership strategies by committing to a relationship with organization members where information is given honestly and ideas are not only welcomed but expected. These managers foster opinion, exchange, and discussion supported by genuine interest.
The value of leadership talent added to the repertoire of the manager is that it transcends one managerial decision to another, keeping the door open for organization members to participate in future organizational achievements and derive personal fulfillment. The manager, focused on agreement as the dividing line between commitment and compliance, is able to examine other ways to accomplish organization goals and to seek agreement; or, in other words, to lead. T+D