In Search of Good Management

GoodManagementHave we lost sight of good management? Much has been written about the difference between leaders and managers.

“Leaders are people who do the right thing,” note leadership experts Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith in Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader (Basic Books, 2003). “Managers are people who do things right.”

“It has become popular to talk about us being over-managed and under-led. I believe we are now over-led and under-managed.” ~ Henry Mintzberg, Simply Managing: What Managers Do—and Can Do Better (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013)

As Bennis and Goldsmith further explain: “There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.”

While this distinction is correct, it has unintended negative effects. Some leaders now believe their job is about coming up with big ideas. They dismiss executing these ideas, engaging in conversation and planning the details as mere “management” work.

Worse still, many leaders cite this distinction as the reason why they’re entitled to avoid the hard work of learning about the people they lead, the processes their companies use and the customers they serve.

Thousands of leadership-development courses are available, and people usually become excited when they’re fast-tracked for leadership programs. But you rarely hear anyone voice excitement about receiving training to become a better manager.

Have we become so enamored with the mythos of “leadership” that we ignore the rudiments of rock-solid “good management”?

Mintzberg, a professor of management studies at McGill University in Montreal, says it well: “Just as management without leadership encourages an uninspired style, which deadens activities, leadership without management encourages a disconnected style, which promotes hubris.”

Perhaps we need to stop glorifying leadership and embrace it as a necessary component of management. In the work I do in organizations, I see so much emphasis on leadership and not enough on good management. What do you think? Is this true where you work, or not? I’d love to hear from you.

(Image by Stuart Miles,

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