Dynamics of the Discussion on Leadership
There is a constant discussion in professional forums concerning the concepts of leadership and management. This discussion often centers on the aspect of leadership possessing more value than the aspect of management. The flaw of this discussion is the comparison of the functions of leadership and management in a team environment to the personal attributes of the individuals in positions of authority or responsibility on a team.
I believe a focused discussion showing the interrelations of all four concepts is warranted. This discussion allows organizations to overcome the stagnation often accompanying the inability to see the benefit of these concepts.
The label of “leader” and the function of leadership work well together. The leader of a group of individuals is normally a person who has been assigned the responsibility of accomplishing a certain task. Along with that comes an expectation, stated or implied, pertaining to how well the group must perform the task. Simply stated, leadership is the function of influencing others to accomplish a particular task which they have in common. While the label of “leader” is not always pinned to a position in an organizational chart, for the purpose of this discussion we will assume the term leader is a person who provides the influence in the group to accomplish its assigned goals, AND is held responsible for the successful accomplishment of the task. The leader has at his/her disposal all resources necessary to accomplish the task.
That brings us to the “manager” and the function of management. In many of the discussions to which I have been party the discussion seems to indicate “managers” are not leaders and “leaders” are not managers. The problem with this is both are tasked with the responsibility to accomplish a specific task with a finite amount of resources including time, money, and people. Granted there are some with the label of manager who are not responsible for other team mates to accomplish a task, such as a database manager who is solely responsible for ensuring the correct input of information into a database, but this person is an exception to this discussion.
Instead of looking at the differences in leaders and managers we should look at the similarities. Both have to accomplish a task; both have resources allocated to them to accomplish that task; both are responsible for the successful accomplishment of the task.
The leadership function focuses on the how the manager/leader views the individual members of the team. There are positive leadership attributes, as well as negative attributes. How does the “leader” place himself into the team, is it a superior/subordinate relationship? How does the leader allocate the resources to the team to get the job done? How can the team be successful if the leader is not a positive influence and the team members do not have the resources necessary to get the job done?
The management function concerns itself with the allocation of the non-human resources, time, money, widgets. There are positive management attributes as well as negative ones. Does the “manager” view the resources as his/hers, exercising strict control? How does the “manager” influence the human resource of the team? How can the team be successful if the manager does not provide the non-human resources efficiently and effectively, and is not a positive influence in the motivation of the team?
This demonstrates how a leader must both lead and manage and how a manager must manage and lead. Put whatever label on the individual on whom the rose is pinned, but for that person to be successful he/she must be a practitioner of both management and leadership for him/her to successfully complete the job.