In the work that I do, I am often asked what is the difference between leaders and managers. So here is an attempt to describe the difference:
Leaders lead people. In order to lead people they need vision of a possible future and a sense of purpose. And they need to convince others that this vision and purpose are something that are worth working towards. Leaders have to master uncertainty and lead people when the future is uncertain and the outcomes are unclear. To that extent, leaders will need to fall back on their own values and beliefs and express (when questioned) what the future might look like. They will often answer uncertainty with more uncertainty, but dress it up in a coat of confidence such that the followers believe in the body language and are less concerned about the ideas or words.
Managers manage work. The work might have other people doing the work or it might have machines doing the work. Enlightened managers should also be leaders. But when the people become machines without a purpose other than to turn up and do the work and get a wage – and when the managers become lazy and start bullying the workforce, then managers are on the rocky road to redundancy – working towards redundancy of the process they are managing and, ultimately, redundancy from the organisation they are working for.
Therefore, Leadership is normally described in a positive light – because it is easy to see when leaders are being effective and have enthusiastic followers. Quite simply, mis-leadership is not such an interesting idea, because the followers simply stop following and move on to follow something else!
However, we constantly struggle with the two poles of management – good management and mis-management – simply because our employment laws and the ways that companies create contracts often lock-in the bully-boy mentality to a process, system or business relationship that others will follow simply to earn a wage.
In beekeeping we have a term for a colony that is being well-managed (not just by the queen, but when the system is stable). It is when the colony is “queen-right”. In other words, there is single laying queen in residence that gives off enough pheromones to keep the colony happy. It is not simply that the queen is a good leader, but that the pheromones are strong and bind the colony. I often think human societies behave in the same way – except that our pheromones are words!
When the colony is not “queen-right”, there are no binding pheromones. In such cases, the colony starts to become stressed. If a queen does not appear from a queen cell in three or four weeks, it is likely that workers will start laying unfertilised eggs. Although flying bees will continue to bring nectar and pollen into the hive, the hive will eventually die off because no new bees are being produced by the colony. I have often found that a hive in this state also becomes aggressive – but not in every case. So in this case there is no “leadership” in the sense that there are no binding pheromones from the queen – yet lots of day-to-day management of tasks that are instinctive behaviours by the individual bees.
Interested to know what others think about these ideas!