I must confess I have never been 100% comfortable with the traditional distinction by Warren Bennis between leaders and managers which I always thought too stereotyped: ‘Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing’. However you read it, ‘leaders seem to win’…
But there is a point in distinguishing between management and leadership.
I have my own three distinctions:
Managers make sure that the operational machinery works. Leaders make sure that there is an operational machinery that’s fit for purpose.
Managers take care of the healthy functioning of processes and systems. Leaders ask the question, why do we need these processes and systems?
Managers push stuff. Leaders pull stuff.
An overweight managerial system reigns when most of the airtime is given over to processes, systems and procedures. Note that I am not saying this focus on processes, systems and procedures is wrong. I am saying it could be given too much weight and steal the entire airtime. When this problem is visible, it tends to correlate with a slim leadership system that does not have enough glucose, enough weight, to stand up and ask strategic questions.
The exaggeration of an overweight managerial system leads to managerial pathological obesity, with ‘managing the inevitable’ being the main symptom (i.e. all time is spent managing things that would otherwise happen).
Oversized management on a diet, coupled with slim leadership eating healthier and not skipping meals, sounds like a plan. There you are, the CEO as Chief Dietician Officer!