Mgmnt 101

Let’s tell the truth.

One of the greatest myths being perpetrated, packaged and sold to unsuspecting professionals today is that there is something wrong with management as art and science.

Somehow, over the last generation or so, we have created a story that holds management and managers are bad and leadership is good. Death to management. Long live leadership.

Get real.

Its time we stopped with this either or thinking and accepted that management and leadership are both skills needed to move organizations forward today whether that organization is a solopreneur or an international competitor.

I’m not sure how we started down this path, except to note it was concurrent in time anyway with the degradation of US manufacturing capacity. Combined with collapsing economies and shifting consumer tastes manufacturing prowess declined as services grew and average wages became stagnant. By some measures, wage stagnation has been real in the US for 40 years now: two generations.

But this dramatic shift at the end of the industrial age and the birth of the information age didn’t happen because of poor management. It happened because the world kept turning, and the visionaries – leaders – who were charged in part to see these changes, missed it. They didn’t see it.

A cottage industry was born in the 80’s as anyone with a college degree and a few years’ service at a Fortune 500 firm was now a “consultant” and more than a few of these ran around the country making a comfortable living deriding management to anyone who would listen. The thing is, unless you’ve actually been a manager I don’t really believe you’re actually qualified to critique them.

RIchard Branson? Manages quite a complex enterprise well, I’ll listen to him. Jack Welch? Seems like a pretty distasteful guy in my opinon but his track record in management is unrivaled. I’ll listen to him. See? Earn your reputation by doing and then feel free to critque or keep quiet as you see fit. The pseudo-leader with a thin resume who has done “research” (and in so doing often given “research” a bad name) doesn’t speak for or to management though.

Its easy to criticize. Its hard to do.

Management makes decision, sets policy, invest resources – capital and people. Managers coach individuals, set targets, hold people accountable (not a dirty practice by the way) and ensure that sufficient and sustained progress is being made. Managers dive in when things are wrong to wrestle victory from defeat and do their best to stoke the fires when things are going well. And working assiduously to know the difference.

This is a noble profession.

Are there bad managers? Of course, Ive worked with some. So have you. Are they representative of the entire management cadre?

I think not.

Leadership is not the panacea. It is a necessary element to build a sustaining organization in an ever-faster changing world. For-profit, non-profit, government or NGO, you need leadership to fulfill your mission. You also need management.

Let’s not forget that.


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