Christiaan Lam – over de dagelijkse avonturen van een mobiele manager
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The eternal battle

The Eternal BattleRecently I attended the kick off of our Management Academy, where I joined the (in my opinion: eternal) discussion about leadership versus management. If I remember correctly my colleague used the following example to express the difference between a leader and a manager. A manager knows how to climb a stair, a leader knows where to put it. Or how this example is addressed in literature, a manager is doing the things right and a leader is doing the right things. And just to add my own interpretation, if something doesn’t smell right, a manager cleans it up while a leader puts on his boots. This difference can be recognized in a lot of office management.One one side the people who are working very hard to increase the overall revenue year after year, by implementing the companies strategy, reacting on clients demands and supporting, stimulating and facilitating their office workers. They continuously enlarge profit by restructuring the organisation, polishing the business processes, automating redundant work and squeezing the cost model to get even the last drop out. Let’s call them managers.

One the other side we find people who – let me say this in a neat way – care less about todays results, revenues, problems or other short term goals, because they believe that the these things are a minor detail compared to the future existence of the company. If the current situation doesn’t smell right, they don’t focus on changing todays situation, but planning ahead to steer the group they are responsible for in another direction (while keeping the overall goal in sight). And, while the other type of manager doesn’t like it, they cross all barriers to get to their goal. Let’s call them leaders.

Is the latter person always the visionair, the inspirator, the creative brain, who thinks out of the box, derives the strategy and inspires people to follow him? Although many will answer yes to this question, personally I believe not. Certainly history has shown great and truely inspiring leaders with earthshaking visions, but these are not the kind I talk about. I talk about the leaders who fit and adjust their goals to the overall strategy and start off pursuing that goal, regularly crossing the companies written or unwritten rules (and which are a very nice topic to address in a separate item) and hierarchies, managing change, supporting the short term activities which fit their goal while giving hardly any attention to other activities.

Most of the articles about leadership versus management focus on the scope or hierarchy of the terminology used. Which of the to his more important? Which kind of person(s) you need on one level? In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. You’ll need both, they need to know it from each other, appreciate and respect the differences, and power must be spread equal along these types. If the balance points to the managerial side, the company will do great in short term, but will certainly not do well in long term, as markets shift, competitors move ahead and client demand changes. If the balance points to the leaders side, the company will lose itself by continous change, ineffective operation and lack of short term results. The competition between structure and change, between short and long term results, between efficiency and effectivity. So, it’s not a question which side is to be preferred to the other, both are essential for todays company. It’s essential that battle between managers and leaders has to go on… to ensure the future of every single soul in the company.


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