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Leadership vs Management

Today I dropped a tweet about leadership that simply said, “Leaders remove barriers. Managers create them.” Immediately following the tweet I received the comment, “that was bold, but I agree.” To clarify my meaning, this sentiment goes beyond titles and is applied directly to philosophy.

A leader’s role is to serve those that choose to follow them. People will choose leaders who are their champions. The role of the “servant” leader is to remove any barriers that prevent those they lead from being successful.

The philosophy of some management cultures has been inherited from the industrial era and the teachings of Frederick Taylor, a man that focused solely on efficiency through processes. His belief was that workers were not experts and decisions should be made by the experts, in this case supervisors or managers. This philosophy is still in use in many industries and companies today, but not by all. Leaders such as W Edwards Deming and his key principles have a stake in a change in management philosophy.

  • Key #7 Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  • Key #9 Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, in order to foresee problems of production and usage that may be encountered with the product or service.
  • Key # 14 Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

Technology is evolving so quickly that in order for organizations to remain competitive, they not only need to create quality products and services, they also need to this efficiently. Organizations need to place trust in their workers and allow them to have ownership in the products and services they create. Executive level management only benefits from understanding the competitive advantage gained by providing business goals along with the autonomy to meet these goals. Environments engulfed in old thinking will not innovate and will not be able to compete in the global landscape. Today’s leaders, management level employees, must provide leadership, not management to their team members. Management is better left to the technology itself rather than those that implement it.

2 Comments to Leadership vs Management

  1. Chris B

    I’m personally still wrestling with my own opinion on the difference between leaders and managers. Fundamentally, I feel the role of managers should be to remove obstacles and support people, and that leaders provide vision and direction. However, all these relationships are heavily nuanced. I really like your reference to Deming, and you can definitely see how his principles have influenced contemporary thinking about the processes and practice of interaction design through his deep understanding of human behavior. Great read!

    • Derick

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post! I completely agree with your thoughts on this Chris. Leaders and managers are just descriptions, so I am not caught up really with the terms as much as the philosophy that people should be led, not managed.

      My opinion is that senior/executive leadership should provide the vision and allow the integrators to create the solutions to fulfill that vision. A true flat architecture allows leaders to be in touch with those closest to implementation and better positions them to recognize emerging patterns and the need to update business strategy and in many cases make changes to organizational culture.

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