Leadership or management? Why being a "good manager" might not be the best career goal.

Author:Marker, Don
Position:Leadership Corner

Go to Amazon.com and search for books on the subject of "Leadership," and you will get over 59,000 hits. If you do the same search under "Management" you will get more than 590,000 hits.

Is there that much more to say about management?

Obviously, there are a lot of authors who think so. Yet the more complex and difficult of the two concepts is leadership, which may be why there is such a significant difference between the number of people who have attempted to tackle the more challenging topic.

In his book The Essence of Leadership, Author Mac Anderson states:

"Leadership is a complicated topic, because there are probably as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders in the world. That's because a leader is a person with many roles ... CEO, soldier, coach, entrepreneur, department head, politician, teacher, minister ... as well as parent, spouse, and other personal roles. History has identified many qualities and characteristics of great leaders, and, of course, no person embodies them all. But the great leaders I've known, or read about, have one simple thing in common: They have developed their leadership styles around their personalities and their values, and in the end, their actions are consistent with what they truly believe."

Before diving further into this distinction between Leadership and Management consider a series of questions. For many years I have been fortunate enough to facilitate a session at NRECA's Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program (MIP), now held in Madison, WI. The subject matter of my session includes things like board/management relations, what it is like to be a GM/CEO of an electric cooperative, as well as various aspects of leading and managing at the senior level. Each year I ask the MIP participants the same series of questions:

* How many of you strive to be a good manager (at any level) at work?

* How many of you strive to be a good leader within your cooperative?

* What is the difference?

If you are reading this it is likely that you either work within an electric cooperative or with an organization that is somehow related to the cooperative industry. So, consider the same series of questions relative to your career with your organization.

The responses to these questions that I nearly always get with the MIP groups are as follows:

* Strive to be a good manager? Nearly all hands go up.

* Strive to be a good leader? Around two-thirds of the hands go up.

* What is the difference? Dead silence. All hands down...

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