Why Your Business Needs Leaders AND Managers

Shannon Waller
Hero image

The distinction between leadership and management is usually presented as an either/or proposition. Business magazines feature numerous articles on leadership and how you can develop as a leader while presenting management as old hat and kind of boring. Yet MBA and BBA Programs still have plenty of candidates and graduates.

So, which is it? Is one better than the other? At Strategic Coach, we think it’s both.

Management without leadership

Since management is all about efficiencies, clear lines of communication, and clearly allocated responsibility and accountability, an organization with good management is going to be really great at getting things done. The question is, which things? Who’s providing the vision and the direction? Who’s providing the electricity to ignite people’s passions and creativity? Who’s going to pay attention to the culture of the organization? With all management and no leadership, there’s:

  1. No vision. There’s nothing for the team members to get aligned on. Without the clarity of a future vision, people can get off-task—and if you don’t have a direction, how do you know if you’re going the right way?
  2. No clear set of values. Companies without a coherent set of values or principles behave inconsistently from one department to another. There’s nothing giving direction to their day-to-day behavior and very little sense of shared community or culture. Clients and customers also experience inconsistent levels of service and value on the Front Stage of the business.
  3. No unity. Without leadership to keep everyone focused on a common goal, people can fall into factions, jockeying for favor and status, which is unhealthy in any organization. Read Patrick Lencioni’s excellent book on this topic, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers that Turn Colleagues Into Competitors.

All leadership, no management

Now let’s look at the opposite scenario: lots of great leadership with no management. With great leadership, the values and direction will be clear, and people will be excited about the future and inspired to come to work to fulfill the vision. However, there are also some real dangers with only leaders in your business:

  1. No execution. This looks like all talk and no action. When Strategic Coach was first starting up, we had what we thought were great meetings: we brainstormed all sorts of breakthrough ideas, most of which we thought were amazing, and then we’d leave. We’d get back together a week later and say to each other, “What did we decide? Oh, we didn’t decide anything?” and we’d have to go through the whole process all over again. Without managers, people may understand why they’re there, but they don’t know what to do. Managers ask great questions like, “What have you decided? By when? How much?” that result in answers that are so essential to actually getting things done.
  2. No efficiency. People who can add consistency, eliminate the random scenarios, and create systems and processes are also the ones who add money to your bottom line. It’s great to create a lot of new things, but until they’re streamlined, they’re not as profitable as they could be. I’m in awe of and admire people who can take the ideas I make up and make them real, then make them recur. A business needs people who can put systems in place around the leader’s creative ideas and then translate them into efficient day-to-day actions.
  3. No communication. Entrepreneurs can be sporadic when it comes to communication. When people need clarification about the task at hand, the leader may already be on to the next thing—as well they should be. So they need someone to help connect the dots between the leader’s vision and their individual abilities and projects.

[bctt tweet=”In your business, who makes it up? Who makes it real? Who makes it recur?”]

As you can see, we need effective leadership and management to make our companies as great as they can be. It’s important to know where you fall as an entrepreneur: Are your capabilities more on the leadership side of things or the management side? By knowing your own strengths, you’re able to recognize what you can best contribute and also appreciate that others have complementary talents to add.

What really makes it work is having as much cooperation and communication as possible between managers and leaders. This happens when we each fully appreciate who we are, where our instincts lead us, and whose talents complement our own.

So does your business need more leadership? More management? Asking these questions and realizing how both contribute to your organization will lead you to coordinated, focused creativity and action—and that’s what creates growth.