The debate about whether it’s better to be a leader or a manager always provokes a strong response. In recent years we’ve come to admire leadership more than management. The ability to inspire others to achieve is seen as necessary for success, while management to many people seems like the tedious practice of making people do something they may not want to do.
This is unfair, because both skills are necessary for success in local government and other spheres. And while people tend to lean one way or another, the success of any organization rests on people who can both lead and manage. The best leader has well-developed management skills; the best manager has well-developed leadership skills.
Both/and, not either/or
A detail-oriented manager who loves process and performance measures can still inspire others to dream big and accomplish much. And a leader who generates tons of exciting ideas won’t be very successful unless he or she can translate them into concrete action. Staffers in any department or agency will do best when they report to someone who excels at both leadership and management.
The business author and leadership consultant Jim Collins provides a reminder of this in his forward to Peter Drucker’s seminal work, Management. “As Peter Drucker shows right here, in these pages,” Collins writes, “the very best leaders are first and foremost effective managers. Those who seek to lead but fail to manage will become either irrelevant or dangerous, not only to their organizations, but to society. ”
Even if you identify more with one role than they other — perhaps especially if you do — an organization depends on competence in both roles at the top. Managing and leading require different skill sets and mindsets. Knowing the difference and striving to improve in both roles will help your own personal performance and that of your organization.