Magazine article Management Today

Rebuilding Management's Good Name

Magazine article Management Today

Rebuilding Management's Good Name

Article excerpt

In recent years, leadership has been overvalued at the expense of management.

But, as business experts increasingly realise that competitive advantage comes from your people not your leaders, it's time to give the more collegiate skills of managers their due, reports Andrew Saunders.

Whatever happened to the noble calling of manager? These days, it seems everybody from the post room to the boardroom aspires to be a 'leader' instead and they're in a powerful hurry to boot. Who wants to go through all the tedious process-heavy grind and intractable problem-solving challenges that the traditional decade spent learning the ropes at the coalface of management brings with it?

This is the age of instant gratification. Career goals - and the associated financial rewards - which might once have taken 20 years to achieve are now expected to come along in five. If you want to be a leader, be a leader. Why bother with all the management hoopla, when the world is full of books, coaches and career seminars to help you acquire the patina of authority and experience without having to put in any of the hard graft?

That, according to the Jeremiahs, is what is wrong today. An obsession with the L word has produced a generation of execs who are superficially impressive and put on a good show, but who lack core strength and resilience and have presided over organisations fatally overled and undermanaged - witness Lehman Brothers under Dick Fuld or RBS under Sir Fred Goodwin. Time, some would say, to restore the rightful place of management in the organisational pecking order.

Hold on a minute. Surely there's nothing wrong with a bit of drive and ambition? That's progress after all. Has the reputation of management taken such a shoeing and, if so, what can be done to restore its good name? How is the nature of management changing and what will the manager of the future look like? And, in the friction-free world of the knowledge economy, where creativity and innovation are at least as important as the mastery of process and economies of scale, does management even matter that much any more?

The problem, says Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn professor of management studies at McGill University and founder of coachingourselves.com, lies not with leadership or management but with the arbitrary line drawn between them. 'The problem comes when we separate management and leadership; they are part of the same whole. Splitting them disparages managers and detaches leaders.'

That's counter to the prevailing wisdom of the past 15 years, with leadership getting all the glory and interest, while the less glamorous discipline of management has been left to languish. Mintzberg's new book, called simply Managing (FT/Prentice Hall), is his latest effort to redress the balance. The product of his 40-year career as a kind of organisational anthropologist, it is full of insight based on the experiences of managers and was recently named management book of the year.

In Mintzberg's view, leadership is a subset of management rather than the other way around: they are joined at the hip and cannot be studied or performed in isolation. You can't lead without managing, in other words, or manage without leading - it's all a question of balance and context. 'Managers who don't lead are uninspiring and ineffective Leaders who don't manage become detached and do not know what is going on.'

So, at one end of the management-leadership continuum, a CEO might need to do a lot of leading and only a little managing, while at the other a newly promoted team leader will do lots of managing and only a little leading. But they must be able to do both, and be ready to flex the proportions in response to internal and external circumstances. 'You can't build something without both creative leadership and lots of problem-solving.'

You don't have to look far for evidence that events sometimes call for more management and sometimes for more leadership, and that failure to recognise the difference can be costly. …

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