Is There Such a Thing as "Managerial Leadership?"

By Sashkin, Marshall | Supervisory Management, July 1992 | Go to article overview

Is There Such a Thing as "Managerial Leadership?"


Sashkin, Marshall, Supervisory Management


Since the late 1970s, there has been a major development in our thinking about leadership, a change that is just starting to have important effects on people in organizations. That change stems from the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and author James McGregor Burns who argued that great leaders don't just "manage"; they transform both people and organizations. That is, they develop clear-cut visions of what could be.

Leaders do this by tapping into the deepest hopes and dreams of followers. They then make those ideals visible (if long-range) goals. To achieve their goals, leaders use power and influence. But they don't try to force followers to do as they, the leaders, wish. Instead, leaders share their influence by "empowering" followers to take charge and take action to make the vision their own--literally to "own" the dream.

In light of this thinking, at first some people assumed that management was undesirable or "bad"--that only "real" leadership was good. But as research evidence accumulated, several things became clear. The first was that we can understand management and leadership by examining them in terms of three elements: behavior, personal characteristics, and organizational situation. The second learning is that both supervisory management and leadership are crucial for organizational effectiveness. Warren Bennis said, "Managers do things right; leaders do the right things." But he also noted that no organization can endure that fails consistently in either respect. Things must be done right, and they must be the "right" things, as well. Let's examine these two important conclusions in more detail.

Leadership and Management: A Common Framework

Behavior. Both leaders and managers engage in certain categories or types of behaviors. Managers must attend to carrying out tasks while building relationships. Researchers have known this for many years, of course, and various programs have been developed to help managers learn how to focus on and be effective in these two behavior categories. Leaders, however, engage in a set of more specific behaviors. They must, for example, be able to grab people's attention and focus it on key ideas. Leaders must also be good interpersonal communicators (just as must managers, for whom such behavior might be labelled "relationship-focused"). They must inspire trust and confidence by their consistency and must be consistent, too, in the respect they exhibit toward those they manage.

Personal characteristics. Long-range goals and an organizational vision--these terms suggest personal characteristics that might separate leaders from managers.

First, the timelines of managers are usually a month or year or two. Leaders, those at the top, usually have to think in terms of five to ten years.

Looking at this issue in another way, one of the classic functions of management is said to be "control." Research shows that this is related to a "need" for power and influence. But while managers may be effective by emphasizing control of subordinates, the most effective managers and all managers who go on to become effective leaders turn their need for power away from control toward shared influence--empowerment.

Organizational situations. Leaders and managers must deal with somewhat different aspects of the organizational situation. Managers are especially concerned with authority, not just authority based on one's position but the authority that comes from technical expertise and control over rewards. They must decide when, to whom, and how much authority to delegate, based on the situational context. Managers also must define and set up job structures by specifying tasks to be accomplished and, often, by defining or helping define specific task sequences. Finally, managers must determine whether employees are willing and able to do the jobs defined. …

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Is There Such a Thing as "Managerial Leadership?"
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