Manager-ship and Leadership: The 21st Century Challenge

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Now more than ever I am seeing the business community wrestle with this age old debate. There are more and more articles comparing management and leadership. I’m not really sure why people continuously compare the two. Are they two completely different things? Are they more powerful together? And adding to the mix – the way we do business today – highly technical even virtual and global – is there really a place for them individually or even separately? Is one more important than the other? Quite a few questions to unravel.

If you Google the definition of manager, it says a manager is a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company/organization. And if you do the same with leader, it’s a person who has influence or power.

Managers and management are responsible for the “getting things done” part of the organization. How one gets things done makes all the difference. Style and approach or Influence is the area where a manager can be different. This is where I see the Manager fully utilize their power and take on the Leadership role.

In the same arena are those who have great style and approach and choose not to be a manager of anyone or anything other than themselves. Their contributions to the organization are high and they are recognized as someone who can “get things done” not by doing but through their influence. So in effect they have the informal power of a manager. Companies need both of them to be successful.

I recently taught a program on the MBS side of Rutgers – it was called “Communication and Leadership”. I brought the concept of “Lead-ology” taking a spin on the sciences like biology, etc. In the “Lead-ology” portion we explored style and traits and behaviors of leaders. I even had each student conduct Leadership Interviews. Accessing people they admired for their Leadership. Some chose people of great title, some chose people of great influence and everybody chose people who have had impact in the world. Nobel Peace Prize winners to Entrepreneurs to the current boss.

We amassed a compendium of great leadership advice – Tips from the Top we called it. Overall, they all echoed if we want to cultivate leadership within our organizations, we have to recognize leadership exists in everyone.

I have always used a great Shakespearian line “to Be or not to be” that is the leadership question. Leadership is about how you conduct yourself to create followers. Followers are the key to a great leader – without followers you can not do much. There is a great Youtube video on “The First Follower” as a way to understand leadership.

For managers, followers come with the role of Manager of people. They will help conduct the business at hand. How they do it: with great energy and an innovative approach, two areas that they are left to bring to the equation based on their willingness or based on their want to follow the manager. The difference in the followership can be summed up as the emotional attachment – a great Manager / Leader combined will engage the follower energy to create greater things for the organization and the individual. It’s about using our leadership ability in the right way and at the right times. It’s not about comparing and contrasting leadership and management.

Here is the question for leaders/managers – Are you relying strictly upon your job-granted positional authority to herd your followers, or, do you fly a flag that others wish to rally around?

I believe the best leaders are also good managers in that they understand that getting the things done or achieving the goal rarely just happen as a result of inspiration alone. Success results from having good processes. If you want to be a good leader you have to manage your own life even if it is just so you can focus on the important things and not be distracted by the less important things.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Are these roles kept separate where you are? Should we be working harder to bring them together and if so what does this look like? How do you think the aspects of both Manager-ship and Leadership will change during the 21st century technology driven global world?

Posted by Kathleen B. Cashman Jan/11/2012 in Rutgers Center for Management Develo

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