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Published on October 16, 2017

Is Leadership Overrated?

Manager tells me what to do. Leader makes me want it. No. Manager makes himself important. Leader makes me important. No. 

Management and leadership are not the extremes along the same axis. They are distinct competence dimensions and both of them have a high value. Management without leadership is pretty useless. Leadership without management may be even hazardous.

A great manager without leadership skills is like a musician who masters his instrument faultlessly but fails to ignite any emotions when playing to an audience. A great leader without management skills is like a musician whose plain charisma would evoke great feelings in his audience but who actually never cared to learn any instrument.

A great manager is capable of figuring out what is important and valuable. He is able to organize work so that people can excel in creating value. He systematically observes and analyses the world around as well as activities of his own organization. This enables him to correct the course of actions as needed and continuously improve performance. Last but not least, a great manager masters the discipline of decision-making.

Despite his magnificent skills a great manager may still fail if he lacks the skills of leadership. He may not be able to communicate purpose and direction. He may not be able to create and sustain passion. He may be incompetent dealing with emotions of people.

And, by the way, a person that “makes himself important” is not a manager. He’s a plain asshole.

A great leader, on the other hand, has all the skills a great manager may lack. But what’s the point of being able to lead if you don’t understand where to lead, if you don’t know how to organize for performance, if you cannot systematically analyse the performance and the environment, or if you cannot make wise and effective decisions?

Those who make great things happen possess both management skills and leadership skills. Leadership without management is as bad as management without leadership. If you only have one you cannot succeed by delegating or outsourcing the other.

A great manager knows what to do and how to do it. A great leader makes me believe in it and ignites the passion to get it done. They are one person.