Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leadership vs. Management, Driver vs. Mechanic

I've been reading The Leadership Experience by Richard Daft, and while I still have much of the book to go through, I've been pretty impressed so far.  For your typical textbook, it reads very smoothly and kept my interest.  Not too far into the first chapter I found myself madly jotting down notes in the margins, making connections with other books, my consulting, and of course my blog.  The first (I assume of many) items of his that I want to cover is the difference between leadership and management.

These two concepts are sometimes interchanged, or at least assumed to be overlapping, but in function they are distinct.  This is not to say that one person can't embody aspects of both functions, but being a manager does not mean you are a leader, and being a leader is of course independent of being a manager.  

This is a good start to the difference between the two

Some years back, I had a quote by (I think) Michael Porter written on my whiteboard in my office: "Management is doing things right.  Leadership is doing the right things."  While this hints at the differences between the two, and is catchy easy to remember, it only scratches the surface.

Daft presents a simple chart to outline the differences, from which I've pulled the following for your quick absorption:

There are five aspects of organizations in which leadership differs from management.  They are:

          3. RELATIONSHIPS
               4. PERSONAL QUALITIES
                     5. OUTCOMES

Direction is concerned with "steering the organizational ship".  It pertains to where the organization is going and how it is getting there.

Alignment has to do with internal structure in the organization.  What elements are put in place that distinguish people in the organization from those outside?  These may include procedures, boundaries, culture, and values.

Relationships are just that- the connections between people in the organization across all positions, and the connections between the people and what they do (how they feel about what they produce and how they produce it).  (Don't tell me you don't have a relationship with your computer - good or bad- on a daily basis).

Personal Qualities are those of the leader or manager.  What do they embody?  Who are they and how do they act, both personally and professionally?

Outcomes pertain to what that person's main objective is in coming to work everyday (other than a paycheck).  Are they trying to change things?  To maintain stability and status quo?

Differences in Direction
According to Daft, managers plan and budget, keeping an eye on the bottom line.  This is how they steer their ship.  They make sure that as they move forward, everything is tight and controlled, and that all numbers are as they should be to maintain forecasts and objectives.

Leaders, on the other hand, provide direction by creating vision and strategy.  They "keep an eye on the horizon", looking to the long term and asking troubling questions like "Where are we going with all this?" and "Why?".  They are concerned less with the numbers and details, and more with the grand scheme of things, what the company is and where it fits in with competitors, customers, and the rest of the world.

Creating Alignment
Managers organize and staff, direct and control, and create boundaries.  They are responsible for the creation and enforcement of internal structures like the organizational chart, policies, and procedures.  They hire and fire, review and promote.  They create job descriptions and make sure that each one fits with all of the others like one big efficient jigsaw puzzle, and if they find you are operating outside of their structure, you will hear about it.  But remember- this is ultimately a good thing.  Without structure, the organization becomes inefficient and doomed to failure.  Think of the human body without the structure of the skeleton, and think what would happen if the liver decided it didn't like its job description and wanted to be a lung.  Not good.

Leaders align in a completely different way than managers.  In some cases, they work in direct opposition to managers.  For instance, where managers create and maintain boundaries, leaders reduce boundaries and encourage cross-pollination.  Leaders help others grow in their positions, and past their positions, both professionally and personally.  The structure they give is one of a shared culture and values.  They create a narrative, a story that everyone knows about who the company is, and where everyone fits in it.  Think of it like the skin around a body, in the sense that it creates a boundary around the body, separating "us" from "not us".  Additionally, they are like the part of the brain that controls where the body is heading- direction and reason.  The leader creates structure by saying (and communicating to everyone) "This is who we are, this is what we are going after, and this is why".  And this communication, when created effectively, motivates all the members of the organization.

Relationships: People vs. Things, Boss vs. Servant
When it comes to relationships, managers are more object-oriented, and hierarchy-oriented.  As Daft notes, they focus on producing and selling goods and services, and act as a boss around the organization.  They derive- and use- power from their positions (remember the previous post about the bases of social power).  The relationships they foster are boss-underling, and usually based solely on the objective of efficiently producing goods or services.

Leaders, on the other hand, are more focused on people than products.  They relate to others- no matter what the position in the organization- by inspiring and motivating them.  They derive- and use- power based on their personal charisma.  For this reason a leader may not be one at the top of an organization, but one much farther down the totem pole.  Since their power and influence have nothing to do with their position, they can influence others from any position in the organization.  Rather than being a boss, they relate to others as a coach, a servant, and a facilitator.

Personal Qualities: Emotionally Removed vs. Emotionally Involved
The manager embodies qualities that allow them to operate at a safe and efficient distance, removed from close personal relationships.  They maintain emotional distance, rely on their expert mind, and encourage conformity (remember, they are responsible for the hard structure, and expect others to conform to it).  They talk rather than listening, and offer insight into the organization (keeping their insights on the professional level of the company).

A leader's personal qualities are quite different.  They operate on an open, close, and vulnerable level.  They show heart and emotional connectedness, keep an open mind (discouraging conformity), show courage, listen rather than talk, and offer insights into the self.  Their insights reflect personal reflection, and encourage others to look similarly inward for personal development.  Leaders know that personal development leads to organizational development, as each member of the organization becomes stronger and more self-aware.

Outcomes: Stability and Change
The manager is tasked with maintaining stability, not rocking the boat, and keeping everything functioning, predictable, and efficient.  This supports their focus on structure, production, and profitability.  They are the mechanic that keeps everything under the hood functioning smoothly so that the car can be reliable and useful.

Leaders run from the status quo.  They focus on creating change that meets the demands of the market, constantly scanning the horizon for opportunities and threats.  They know who their organization is made up of on a personal level, and how each person comes together under a common culture and value-system.  They work on responding to outside change by creating and implementing effective internal change.  By valuing the individual over the product or service, they infuse the organization with integrity and productive energy.

Conclusion: The Mechanic and the Driver
Daft has given us a clear comparison of the differences between a manager and a leader.  I would add to this that it helps to think of the two positions as a mechanic and a driver of a car.  The "car" is the organization, a collection of individual parts, each with different functions and capabilities.  The mechanic needs to understand how all these parts fit together, imposing structure, rules, and an control.  The mechanic keeps and emotional distance from all the parts, allowing for dispassionate efficient decisions, stability, and reliability.  Without a good mechanic, the car will not run efficiently, and may not run at all.  No one could use it to achieve any goals (like driving to get groceries).

But a car with only a mechanic may not be used for any good purpose.  It needs a driver- a leader- who knows how the car works, what the road looks like, what the obstacles and objectives are, and where the car needs to go.  The driver is passionate (like any good professional driver), capable, charismatic, and stylish.  The driver takes the car to new and exciting destinations.

A car without a mechanic will break down, no matter how good the driver.  And a car without a driver will sit idly and eventually fade into obsolescence without a good driver, no matter how good the mechanic.  Similarly, an organization without good managers will break down, no matter how talented the leader (unless that leader replaces the managers with new, better ones).  And an organization without good leadership will stagnate and fade away over time, no matter how good the management.  Whether the functions of management and leadership are in one person or spread across many, without both there is not much of a future for the organization.

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