Over-Led & Under-Managed

Written by James O. Rodgers

Back in 1977, Harvard professor Abraham Zaleznik penned his classic article entitled, Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? Over the next twenty five years, dozens of high profile authors have referenced that work and have concluded that yes, they are different and that failing companies obviously suffer from being under led and over-managed.  So, for the last thirty years there has been a barrage of books, articles, speeches, and training extolling the value of leadership and diminishing the importance of managing. This may not have been the intent, but it certainly has been the impact.

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When I speak of management, I am referring to the people management role. I recognize that the word management applies to a number of activities, most of which are not generally connected to people issues.

Part of the fascination with leadership is the word itself. Leader has come to mean something glamorous and desirable. So much so that many of the traits attributed to leadership are actually management responsibilities.

After all this time focusing on leadership, there is still a dearth of leadership talent worldwide and a greater dearth of management talent. One reason we haven’t developed more good leaders and even proportionately fewer great managers is a lack of definition for each. Of the nearly 20,000 books written on leadership and the thousands more written on management, the discussion revolves around why leadership is important, how leadership  looks, how leaders lead, etc. I have yet to encounter a clear understandable, standard definition of “what” leadership is and “what” (people) management is.  The lack of definition means that practitioners never know for sure when they are leading and when they are managing. The net result is most people never master either.