HR Group, founded in Edmonton Alberta in 1993, is a partnership of highly experienced management consultants who specialize in organizational effectiveness and human resource management, and promote participative, lean, and cost-effective management practices. All partners are Certified Human Resource Practitioners with extensive senior level experience in both the private and public sectors.

Good Management IS Leadership

Reprinted from “Productive Workplaces” (January, 2007), the HR Group newsletter. 

Leadership has, unfortunately, become the latest flavor of the month. Log on to Amazon.ca and a search under books for “Organizational Leadership” will produce 1504 listings, 215 with the actual word leadership in the title. Titles range from the bestselling The Leadership Challenge to other more esoteric titles such as Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead, Leadership Processes and Follower Self-Identity, and Identity is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation.

Leadership in the business world used to be considered part and parcel of good management not so long ago. The bestseller by Blanchard and Johnson (1983), The One Minute Manager, was followed by Leadership and the One Minute Manager (Blanchard, Zigarmi, P. and Zigarmi, D., 1985). Being a good one minute manager was the same as being a leader. Peter Scholtes’ (1998) The Leader’s Handbook described good leadership in terms of whole systems thinking and other aspects of management. Good management was considered good leadership and vice-versa.

Now leadership is spoken of as a separate phenomenon, distinct from management. The buzzwords are “vision”, “charisma”, “inspiration”, “credibility”, “encouragement”, and “values”. Workshops purport to teach you these aspects of leadership as if the fundamentals of good management don’t matter. What happened to the core management principles of building a productive workplace based on the teachings of Herzberg, Maslow, McGregor, and Dr. Alfred Marrow, among others. These core management principles have been known for over half a century.

Teaching leadership as distinct from management is misleading and seriously detracts from the attention to the core management principles that is still, unfortunately, needed. The curricula of most Schools of Business have been shown to be too narrowly focused on the traditionally taught “business” competencies such as accounting, marketing, and sales. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina Fong (2002) said in an article in the Academy of Management Learning and Education that “contemporary business education focuses on the functions of business more than the practice of managing.” Only recently Henry Mintzberg (2004, p.5) in his latest book, Managers Not MBAs, says that, “It is time to recognize conventional MBA programs for what they are – or else close them down. They are specialized training in the functions of business, not general educating in the practice of managing….It is time that our business schools gave proper attention to management.”

Most of the fundamental aspects of leadership are exactly the same as those of good management and need to be recognized as such. In The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2008) talk about personal credibility and setting an example, clarifying values, fostering collaboration and teamwork, delegating responsibility, fostering accountability, setting clear standards, and recognizing performance. Surely this is precisely what we expect in a good manager today. Surely these are the same old core management principles restated in today’s language. These are the same principles that are espoused today by Edward Lawler III, Jeffery Pfeffer, and others.

Why is it then that these competencies are referred to as leadership by some and as good management by so many others? Are they not one and the same? Is this not just another means of producing another “Silver Bullet” that everyone will rush to try and, of course, pay lots of money for in the process?

The other aspects of leadership that are so frequently mentioned are charisma and vision. Well some have it and some don’t and they can’t be taught. Not everyone is a JFK who can inspire an entire country by asking, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Not everyone has the incredible command of the English language as a Winston Churchill telling the people of England in World War II that, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Both had charisma and vision, but just because you lack either one does not mean that you cannot be a good manager and, therefore, a good leader. Not everyone can be a Patton or a MacArthur, but remember that it was Eisenhower that was in charge of the Allied Forces and went on to be President.

The “leader” in leadership is not the charisma or the vision, it’s the actual leading, of being out in front as in leading your troops in to battle or being personally on the scene at 9/11 as Rudolph Giuliani (2002) has described in his book, Leadership. The same is true for any good manager.

One cannot be a good manager without being a leader. “Do as I say” as opposed to “do as I do”, doesn’t work in the workplace any better than it does at home. So managers must lead. They must clarify the values, provide the appropriate workplace culture, accept the overall responsibility, and be prepared to be held accountable. They must be out in front setting the personal example of such values as initiative, trust, honesty, ethics, participation, and teamwork. They must establish their personal credibility to lead. They must create the productive workplace that brings out the best in everyone including the collective vision.

Leaders on the other hand must be good managers. To have a successful and productive organization of any kind it must be well managed. It is the leader’s responsibility, therefore, to ensure that this occurs. The leader must put those management practices and principles into place that create a productive workplace, an effective government, or an efficient army. Leaders cannot do everything themselves and must, therefore, delegate responsibility to others.

This in turn means that they must be concerned with hiring the right people, with effectively managing performance, with recognizing achievement and dealing with poor performance, with training, with accountability and with openly providing information.

They must be fully trained and experienced in the core principles of good management and creating a productive workplace. You cannot be a leader without being a good manager. No amount of charisma or vision will compensate.

Mintzberg (2004, p.6) says, “…I use the words management and leadership interchangeably. It has become fashionable to distinguish them. Leadership is supposed to be something bigger, more important. I reject this distinction, simply because managers have to lead and leaders have to manage. Management without leadership is sterile; leadership without management is disconnected and encourages hubris. We should not be ceding management to leadership; in MBA programs or anywhere else.”

The core principles are just that; they are core principles – core as in “a basic, essential, or enduring part”, and principle as in “a comprehensive and fundamental law”. So let’s stop looking for the Silver Bullet and concentrate on the core principles rather than continuously creating new flavors of the month. This may not sell as many books and workshops, but it would be a lot more effective.

References

Blanchard, K. and Johnson, S., 1983. The One Minute Manager. New York: Berkley Books.

Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P., and Zigarmi, D., 1985. Leadership and the One Minute Manager. New York: William Morrow and Company.

Giuliani, R.W., 2002. Leadership. New York: Hyperion.

Kouzes, K.M. and Posner, B.Z., 2008. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mintzberg, H., 2004. Managers Not MBAs. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Pfeffer, J. and Fong, C.T., 2002. The End of Business Schools? Less Success Than Meets The Eye. Academy of Management learning and Education, Volume 1.

Scholtes, P.R., 1998. The Leader’s Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.