Jennie Marshall | 2 April 2014
For years we've been asking the question: "Which is best, leadership or management?"
When it comes to training people, and leadership and management courses, people often say that they are managers wanting to become leaders. Somehow we've gotten into the mixed-up state where we believe that leadership is better and a higher calling than management.
I could blame Peter Drucker. After all it is he, the guru of gurus when it comes to leadership and management, who is so often quoted as saying "we need more leadership and less management."
Instead of concentrating on that statement, I'd like to ask a different one:
What is it that he didn't say?
Peter Drucker didn't say that leadership was more important than management.
Drucker wasn't comparing the relative value of functions or types of work. He was describing what he saw as an imbalance in the system.
Organisations are complex, human-driven systems. When they get out of balance, bad things happen. When bad things happen, it's your job as a boss to make things right.
Peter Drucker didn't say "we need more leaders and fewer managers".
He wasn't talking about kinds of people; he was talking about kinds of work.
Too many writers seem to think that there are superior people, 'the leaders', not-so-superior people, 'the managers', and everyone else. But everyone is important, as many an executive has discovered when the receptionist or payroll clerk was off sick.
Peter Drucker didn't say that we don't need management.
Leadership is great and important. But without management to coordinate effort, all those leadership visions dwindle down to hopes about what might have been.
If you're a boss, your job is to do the leadership work of "rallying people to a better future", as Marcus Buckingham put it. But you also need to help them organise the trip.
Peter Drucker didn't say anything about supervision.
That's another kind of work. Drucker didn't mention that.
In addition to leadership and management, supervision is part of your job as a boss. It's the hard and important work of assigning tasks, communicating specific expectations, following up, and helping individuals and the team improve performance. Supervision includes the things you do to help your team members grow and develop.
Your job as a boss is a complex mix of three kinds of work: leadership, management, and supervision. It's the work of both accomplishing the mission and caring for your people.