Friday, September 21, 2012

Leadership v Management

What is leadership? What is management? Is one more superior than the other?

John P. Kotter has been a leading industry researcher on these questions. In a paper he wrote in 1990 he tells us this:

...leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success ....

The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Management is about coping with complexity. ...Without good management, complex enterprises tend to become chaotic in ways that threaten their very existence. Good management brings a degree of order and consistency to key dimensions like the quality and profitability of products.

Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change. ... Faster technological change, greater international competition, the deregulation of markets, overcapacity in capital-intensive industries, an unstable oil cartel, raiders with junk bonds, and the changing demographics of the work-force are among the many factors that have contributed to this shift. ... More change always demands more leadership.

"Systems of action"...I really do like that sentiment

Of course, no good thought goes unchallenged, so here's mine:

"Coping with change" and "coping with complexity" sound a bit weak to me. In fact, I'm not sure 'coping' sounds very leaderly or managerial.

For the change thing, a more agresssive idea might be 'making change work for the enterprise instead of against it'. And, to make that happen, you're going to need a big dollop of management to plan, measure, monitor, and direct resources

For complexity, how about resist complexity in favor of the simplest possible? (though that might actually be pretty complex)

Of course, Kotter is the expert here. I take his points even if I quible at the tone. Leadership and management are systems of action, so I'll end on that idea