Pity the lowly manager.
We have a preponderant preoccupation with leaders, leadership and leading these days.
I did a quick Google search and found 30,200,000 pages mentioning “great leaders” and half that many for “great managers.”
We worship leaders and tolerate managers. Leaders are followed (often blindly) while managers are obeyed. Leaders paint pictures of a desired future, managers post next week’s schedule on the bulletin board.
Conventional wisdom often sees managers as leaders-in-training. So badly do people aspire to leadership that we’ve taken to diluting the definition so that many who aren’t leaders can nevertheless wear the coveted badge.
But managers and leaders perform significantly different functions.
Leaders move entire groups of people to places (or ideas) they haven’t been. Moses led an entire nation from one place to another. Martin Luther King Jr. led an entire nation to think differently about justice. Leaders create a common path that everyone can imagine and follow.
Managers move one person at a time. Good managers see each person in their charge as unique individuals and assign specific tasks that will help move the team along. Their names are seldom heralded but you know them. Marshall is the manager at your local hardware store who knows the strengths of each person on his team and makes sure he doesn’t schedule his best night time closer for the early morning shift. Susan manages the dentist office, and knows that certain patients don’t care for Joyce, the over-bubbly hygienist, so she schedules them with someone else.
Without effective managers putting the right people in the best positions, leaders are merely dreamers.
Three cheers for managers.