Seth Godin does good work. Not only does he provide alternatives to old ways of doing things, he reminds us not to neglect proven concepts. In a recent blog post, he wrote about the differences between managers and leaders. He said:
“Managers work to get their employees to do what they did
yesterday, but a little faster and a little cheaper. Leaders, on the other hand, know where they'd
like to go, but understand that they can't get there without their tribe,
without giving those they lead the tools to make something happen. Managers want authority. Leaders take
Godin goes on to point out that we need both managers and
leaders, but he shows his bias when he says, “It helps to remember that leaders
are scarce and thus more valuable.”
Although I understand his sentiment, I have to disagree. I would say that both are valuable, but only
if they understand their respective roles and both accept the responsibilities
that go with those roles. Certainly we
need visionary leaders who will move us to the next level, but leaders are only
leaders if they have followers. These
followers must be encouraged, nurtured, and empowered. Not only must they be given the tools they
need to do the work, but they must also have the freedom to use them.
We have many examples in the Bible of leaders who prospered
for awhile but then lost their “edge” because they forgot what made them
leaders. David was blessed by God and
energized the people of Israel, but his hubris led to poor moral choices that
undermined his leadership.
Managers have the gifts to make things run smoothly. They know how to use resources wisely and
make sure everyone knows what they need to do.
The Achilles heel of the manager can be the inability to adapt to
changing conditions. Once the structure
or organization is in place, they are not inclined to change it.
Managers are akin to the “stewards” we read about in
Scripture. They had a great deal of
responsibility and often ran large estates for their masters, but they had to remember
their place and that their role in the economy was limited.
The bottom line is that we need both. Many great leaders have
fallen because they were not able to turn the vision into a workable
system. Many competent managers have
driven the organization into the ground because they had limited vision. Leaders and managers need each other. Together they move organizations forward.