Management Vs. Leadership
I have recently been reminded of Stephen Covey’s story that illustrates the difference between leadership and management.
It has been many years since I read Stephen Covey’s words on the subject but from memory I will paraphrase the story as follows:
The story is set in the Amazonian jungle hundreds of miles from civilisation and the task at hand is the process of cutting a road through the dense Amazonian forest.
The work is going well. The cutters are cutting down the trees the graders are levelling the ground. Foundations are laid and Tarmac is poured on top to create a smooth surface to drive through the jungle. Work proceeds well indeed. Each man knows his job and each man performs the tasks he is given to push the work forward. The managers are there, daily giving out the tasks, supervising the progress and generally feeling very happy with themselves.
The leader of the team then ascends a large tree, climbs right to the top and looks out across the forest and realises that the road is going in the wrong direction. He shouts down to the road builders. “Stop! We are going the wrong way. The manager who was running the building team shouts back to the leader. “Are you kidding? We can’t stop now, work is progressing so well”.
As managers, we know what to do. We perform the tasks we are expected to perform, drive the teams, achieve the targets, but how often do we stop and look to see if our metaphorical road is going in the right direction?
Of course, we need managers. Of course, we need planning. Of course, we need drivers and organisers and people to monitor and measure performance and to guide improvements. But we also need leaders. We need people who have vision, who are able to see the overall picture and to be able to guide and motivate a team into the understanding of that picture.
The truely interesting thing about the difference is that good leaders are not often good managers and good managers are very rarely good leaders. It is a different set of skills and the two are usually mutually exclusive.
So, Management is all about Planning, Organising and Controling.
But Leadership is different.
Leadership is all about Vision, Strategy and Change.