Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Leadership and Management; different flavours of the same thing?

In Harvard Business Review dated January 9, John Kotter  writes an interesting article titled "Management Is (Still) Not Leadership".

The author's arguments are that management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. Kotter says that we constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially when people are not in senior management jobs. So, the author sustains that management is crucial — but it's not leadership because leadership is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behaviors.

After more than 20 years of working experience, still often I find my self unable to take party in discussions that tend to divide in such a strict way the fields of management and leadership. Having done "the talk and walk" from business administration, management and leadership perspectives I acknowledge that in this "ever-faster-moving world", leadership is needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy, no matter what their functional role.

So, what is the difference between a leader (who sets goals, organizes, uplifts and motivates people, and controls their performance), and a manager? Jorge Vasconcellos e Sá poses the question and gives the answer in his 2012 book (Title: There is no leadership: only effective management); "A leader must manage, and a manager has to lead. They are one and the same thing”. And, from Kotter's point of view "The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it's a recipe for failure."