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Saturday, March 13th, 2010 | Author:


It is actually very simple:  Leadership is executive management, or management of management.  Leadership is the executive task, while management is the administrative task.  To illustrate with an analogy:  Management is administering Execution as in blocking and tackling, while Leadership is Building the Team and Developing the Play Book.

Basically, management is all the things you need to administer to keep a business running.  It is organizing processes, looking after finances, minimizing risks, administering details, and handling the day to day operations and operational difficulties.  Management is everything you absolutely need to make a business operate.  Without good management, a business will stumble around drunkenly, fall down from time to time, and possibly even break its neck.  With good management a company will survive.  Leadership is the management of that management process.  In that absence of good management, leadership builds it.

Then building on top of good management, leadership adds team building (at all levels of an organization), vision, and executive direction.

This is a simple concept, but for a variety of reasons, the whole world wants to make it seem complicated.

For one thing:  Business leadership is not a quality that is limited to only executive management

The qualities of leadership don’t start in the executive office.  Rather they start with individuals and how they approach everyday life.  You don’t have to be in business to be a leader.  And you can’t be an effective leader of others unless you are an effective leader of yourself.  The show “Undercover Boss” recently had Larry O’Donnell working side by side with the rank and file employees.  Without going into all the details, you can observe self leadership in the one very self directed, self motivated, porta-pot cleaning employee.  You can bet that if you promote him to the first level of management that he would understand how to build the skills and attitude that the workers need to be successful.

For another thing:  Leadership is not limited to business management

Even someone who is self employed with no employees still has need of leadership. The army of one still has to figure out what battles to fight, where to be and when to be there, what skills are the most critical ones to develop, and on and on and on.  The leadership task of team building doesn’t fall away just because you have a team of one.  In fact, the opposite is true:  It is more important than ever that you figure out how to invest in the human resources of your army of one, because there is nobody else around to do it!  Granted your team building is easier without the personality issues in a team of many, but the requirement itself still exists.

Yet one more thing:  We don’t have a set of certified credentials to qualify someone as a leader

Unfortunately, we have a long and rich history of teaching management as business administration and not as leadership.  This has lead to a large population of credentialed professionals who consider themselves leaders, but who have actually had very little leadership focus in their education and experience.  We don’t have an army of credentialed professionals running around with MBL (Masters of Business Leadership) degrees.  We have an army of credentialed business administration professionals instead.

Combine this with the fact that actual leadership training is a fragmented discipline with thousands of self certified experts (not to label them as arrogant, it’s just that there is no other kind of certification!) and each expert is teaching their own personal brand, flavor, and subset of the subject.  You have leadership experts coming from a religious framework.  You have leadership experts teaching from a sports perspective.   You have military leaders, leaders who have been successful in business, and on and on.  The only thing you don’t have is any common curriculum that is accredited for making one a leader!

So the credentialed professional managers, the MBAs, really don’t even have a clear program for leadership.  Plus, the lack of leadership curriculum means that the MBA certification is still the highest available.  They are left with no clear path to follow, and no clear indication of whether they are managers or leaders.  So of course they declare themselves leaders.

Finally:  Leadership is separating the executive task from the administrative task

But what is the Executive task and how does it differ from the Administrative task?

The executive task can best be described as fixing an entire type of problem, rather than fixing the individual problem.  This is not to say that administrators and managers shouldn’t be expected to look for, recognize, and correct the type of problem.  Leadership can and should be encouraged, taught, and rewarded in every single member of a team, from top to bottom.

Back to the Waste Management example, Larry O’Donnell is showing great potential as a leader.  However, is he fixing the type of problem or is he fixing the specific problem?  Assuming the entire exercise isn’t just a PR ploy, let’s consider a comment from the CBS website about his episode of the show.

kellibrooke noted: Anyone see a problem with how he handled Jaclyn’s situation? Her position required way too much work and she didn’t make enough money to keep her home. So… instead of realizing that her current job didn’t pay enough for all the work she did… He made her into one of him. Put her on salary, made her a management employee. That’s awesome for her… but what about her ‘replacement’ that she is supposed to hire? That person will be in the same boat as Jaclyn was. I’m happy for Jaclyn but the real issue is the job itself and the fact that people can’t support their families and keep their homes based on the wages he’s handing out to non-management employees. She’ll now be eligible for bonuses….what about the people he saw picking up trash and cleaning the johns….where are their bonuses??

Herein lies the real question:  Is Larry O’Donnell a great leader?  Or is he a great administrator?  He certainly fixed the individual problem.  Time will tell if he can address the type of problem as a whole.

Category: Leadership  | Tags: , , , ,  | 26 Comments