Managing Groups and Teams/A balance between management and leadership

In the business world of today, there seems to be a halo afixed to the term Leader, while the term Manager is seen to have something of a stigma. "Leader" brings to mind heroic figures rallying people together to give their all for a cause, while "Manager" brings to mind less-charismatic individuals trying to make people into more effecient cogs in the corporate machine.

When one considers this definition of Management (from Wikipedia) one can see that Leadership is actually a sub-catergory of Management: "Management (from Old French ménagement "the art of conducting, directing", from Latin manu agere "to lead by the hand") characterises the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible)."

One can manage their time, their budget, their fuel, and yes, their people, but one can only lead people (or to be more inclusive, we should say one can only lead intelligent living things, since shepards and dog-trainers would object to a homo sapiens-centric definition).

Then perhaps the perception of a cog-manipulating manager is rooted in this difference between animate and inanimate objects. It is when we feel used, manipulated, or led against our will by a person in authority over us, we feel as if we are being treated like an inanimate object. We say the person in authority is a lousy manager. But when the person in authority increases our own autonomy, makes us feel at liberty to accept or reject his/her vision, and fills us with a real personal desire to bring this vision to life, we say he/she is a great leader.

When applying these concepts for "manager" and "leader" in the setting of a team, we find interesting results: If there is a team leader that is perceived to be unconcerned with the team members needs, or has a personal agenda more important than the team's goals, then the leader is perceived to be more of a "manager" and becomes estranged from the team members. Conversely, the team leaders most admired and loyally followed are those who show concern for the team members as individuals with real needs, and are those who put "The Cause" of the team above their own persona agenda.

Realistically, most organizations do need leaders who sometimes look at their teams with cold, analytical eyes, evaluating inefficiencies and making unpopular choices. But it would be a mistake to think that one has to be an "estranged, unliked manager" in order to execute these responsibilities. If a team leader's tasks such as efficiency analysis were done hand in hand with sincerely seeking to know team members individual needs, then the team leader would be perceived to have a genuine desire to make the team more successful. Additionally, ineffective leaders may hide an unwillingness to make tough decisions by faking the "touchy-feely" attitudes associated with great leaders with high emotional-intelligence.

It is my opinion that effective leadership is a uniquely human institution, and there isn't a team that couldn't profit through better "leaders" rather than better "managers" –using the titles as metaphors, of course. One can still balance all the practical demands of a "manager" with the beneficial traits of an inspiring "leader."

Poor Leadership · Effective Team Leadership