Management Articles


You Can't Lead Without Managing (part 1)

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

Despite a lot of talk about organizations being overmanaged and underled, those at the top need to be involved with what's happening down the line if they want their plans to succeed.

Inspiration. Visioning. Strategizing. In current management jargon, they all add up to Leadership. And a lot of popular management gurus would have you believe that this is what is missing in business today. They say that organizations are overmanaged and underled -- "management" having to do with such mundane matters as organization and implementation of the leader's vision. And woe betide the organization that doesn't have a visionary leader at the top, however competent, or even brilliant a manager that chief executive may be. It all makes good copy. But it has little to do with reality.

In fact, there are far too many organizations today -- both in government and the private sector -- in which the person at the top overleads and undermanages. All too often these organizations experience failure not because of a lack of ideas, goals and inspiration, but because they can't get their acts together and make it all happen. Their leaders are incapable of managing the vision into existence. It's all very well for top executives to dream, envision, plan and set goals. But what's the use if they can't shepherd their vision into reality -- the management part of a leader's role?

Current marketing research shows that 85 percent of new product failures occur as a result of poor execution of marketing plans -- not because the new product or services are of low quality. As one researcher wrote recently: "Even in the best-run companies, it is too easy to feel that the work is done when the Big Idea is hatched." The trouble is that, by their very nature, many entrepreneurial, self-driven leaders just hate the routine work that competent management invariably requires.

Studies of senior executives have shown that the heads of organizations eagerly absorb concepts. They are excited my new ideas. They produce great plans. At the same time, however, they dislike the detail, personal attention and patience that are essential to managing the people who must translate these plans into reality. In particular, they avoid managing their executive subordinates. Their attitude is: "I hire top quality people and give them the freedom to do their jobs as they see fit; I'm only interested in the bottom line -- results are what count." But all too often the results of such a hands-off policy are that great ideas end up in the wastebasket of their organization's history.

Why are so many leaders averse to the vital task of managing people? Partly this is because they lack management skills, and also because they misperceive the role of a leader. And the theoretical split between leadership and management that is promoted by so many recent management books only makes the situation worse because it allows the person at the top to feel justified in avoiding the job of managing.

Some organizations have gone so far as to institutionalize the split between leading and managing. They have a chief executive officer who is responsible for "doing the right things" and a chief operating officer who is responsible for "seeing that things are done right." That, by the way, is the way one current management guru actually puts the argument. It's verbally cute, but wildly wrong; in the real world, leadership and management can't be split.

The greatest idea, vision, plan or strategy in the world is only that until it gets implemented. Thus, the vision and its implementation are inextricably intertwined. The one who leads can't avoid the responsibility of getting things done. In fact, the leader who can't manage his troops so that vision gets translated into reality isn't a leader at all.

Click here to read part 2.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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