Over Managed and Under Led?

The dichotomy between leader and manager has been analyzed ad nauseam, but there is a relevant question you should ask when it comes to organizations and businesses. Is your organization over managed and under led?

The discussion defining leadership and management can launch in multiple directions. Organizations need both. Simply defining leadership seems a challenge. Webster’s Dictionary defines leadership as, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Business News Daily published an article that listed 33 definitions of leadership. Here’s my leadership definition: “The ability to influence people in a direction you need them to go.”

That’s somewhat simplistic, I realize, but there are four components to that definition that I find important.

  1. Ability. Leadership doesn’t just happen; it is a skill that must be developed. Almost no one sits down at a piano and plays as a virtuoso. Likewise, leadership takes practice, development and intentionality.
  2. Influence. A variety of people have said if no one is following then you’re not leading you’re just taking a walk. Influence is the ability/skill to express a desired value for the purpose accomplishing a desired outcome.
  3. People. Few – if any – businesses are successful without the help of others, but people are not a means to pursue and end, they are individuals who have value and comprise the identity of an organization.
  4. Direction. Leaders see where collective success lies and take the necessary actions to make sure a group of people successfully arrive at the intended destination.

My intention is to not disparage managers because every business needs good managers. Management is defined as, “the act or process of deciding how to use something.” Great managers are excellent stewards of available resources.

However, the question remains, “Is your organization over managed and under led?”

Every organization is different of course, but an organization that is over managed and under led will tend toward sustaining itself by efficiently utilizing its resources. There is ebb and flow, but managers generally seek to improve the organization by improving processes and resource allocations. That’s helpful, but it takes leadership to push beyond those efficiencies.

To some degree, leadership is a disruptive force – and should be – because it is the component that helps others strive for greater heights. Leadership develops people, seeks strategic opportunities, and creates greater value for employees and “customers.” Leadership seeks to change the equation to the betterment of all those affiliated with the organization. Over managed and under led organizations tend to lack that differentiating quality.

It takes good managers to help guide an organization to accomplish the vision of a leader, but like leadership guru John Maxwell says, everything rises and sets on leadership.


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