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Журнальный клуб Интелрос » Credo New » №3, 2010

Armen Petrosyan

(The nature of leadership and its relation to management)

Omnis habet geminas, hinc atque hinc,
janua frontes,
E quibus haec populum pectat,
at illa larem.
Publius Ovidius Naso. Fasti.[1]

The problem of leadership and its part in organizational life is up to now of the most knotty matters. Already in early 1970s R. Stogdill wrote that there were almost as much definitions of leadership as those who tried to define this concept.[2] During more than three decades elapsed since then the number of definitions only grew while the rapport between them became progressively less. And nowadays the voices are heard that the nature of managers and leaders is quite moot idea and there are no coherent viewpoints on what they have to do and what makes them to act in such a way.

So, G. Salaman is of opinion that a clear vision of the nature of leadership never will appear because “such definitions arise not from organizational or technical requirements (which are themselves the product of manager’s theory of organization), but from the shifting ways in which over time these functions are variously conceptualized. The manager, as much as the worker, is a product of history”.[3] It comes out that all is relative. Today people look at management and leadership from one standpoint but under other conditions their ideas will change. And this kind of attitude is irrespective of the nature of organizations and their “technical requirements”. Should one wonder that definitions of leadership not only proliferate but are, for the most part, also very distant from the real activity of organizations?

Such a state of affairs is hardly tolerable in science. And obviously it is time to elucidate this dark point. Just doing it the present article is destined for.

What is the nature of leadership? How it correlates to management? What places they take within organizations and how interact at ruling people? Here are the main questions to be answered.

First article

A critique of the prevalent approaches

1. A mere managerial function?

When treating leadership many bring it to one of the management functions. Indeed, manager influences his subordinates, motivates them, mobilizes and directs to achieving the formulated and implicit objectives. Under such conditions it is hard to do without some leader behavior. Just owing to it manager “kindles” the workers and obtains essential outcomes where the circumstances seem to impede his efforts. However it is easy to notice that such leader forms of acting, being often vitally important for the successful management, go out of its proper framework.

What is a function? It is the task for which the system is destined, what is accomplished in the course of its activity. As regards management its mission consists in ensuring the organizational goals’ attainment. Manager sets objectives, organizes the work directed to their fulfillment, and controls its course and results.

Now, what is the mission of leadership? It has to inspire and enlist the diligence of workers. Leader “attunes” and inclines them to do all their best to promote the common business.

Thus, leadership is only one of the means supporting the functions of management, along with many others (the special knowledge, the ability to grasp the situation, the skills of handling technical devices, and so on). True, the role of leadership in management processes is so considerable that it acquires inevitably a heightened status. But it doesn’t mean that leadership ceases to be a tool of manager and becomes an end in itself.

It is common knowledge that not all managers are leaders. Sometimes they say about a manager: “He’s a good worker, competent and skilled. But he isn’t leader”. Does it mean that such a manager is grotty one? Not a bit. To some extent he can fulfill his tasks quite well without distinct leader behavior. Certainly, it is nearly always desired but not necessary at the lowest and especially middle levels of management.

Undoubtedly, the significance of leader behavior is increased as the manager goes up to the top of organization. And it becomes an obvious necessity for many executives. However even this case is not so much simple. There are a host of organizations having subordinate or stable goals (e. g. a daughter enterprise producing components and spares for its parent or the survey office of a governor, destined to attend on his administration). Even their first persons can easily do without any charisma.

Likewise, not all leaders are managers. The most convincing example is a preacher conducting huge crowds but in the same time not trying to obtain further insight into the life order of his followers. Jesus Christ, as Gospels say, felt the burden of routine and came angry when his disciples turned to him for utilitarian wants. His living, wrote E. Keedy, an author who studied moral leadership, “was wholly valorous, heroic. He himself suffered the loss of all things for God’s sake. He was poor and homeless, hated, betrayed, put to death; but he was the most tranquil and joyous of men, who despited this shame as a light afflication, and took reproach for God as a great joy”.[4] Jesus didn’t aspire at the power nor had need for managing his followers in the ordinary sense. He hadn’t been going to set their mind to fulfill some specific tasks or to distribute among them current duties. Nor had they been supervised by him. Jesus didn’t appreciate their conduct in a permanent order as well as reward or punish them.

Clear, Christ had been able to sate a crowd with a few loaves but he looked reproachful at those who thought of worldly rather than of divine things. And only after his death and ascension there appeared a need to put in order the affairs of his followers’ community for it acquired some property structure and a hierarchy of authorities. One might say the same about other preachers – John the Baptist, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.

So, what a function of management is leadership if it, being inherent in activity of many non-managers, nevertheless passes a sizable part of managers by? And why it differs thus much from their other functions?

Can one imagine a manager – even of the lowest rank (such as foreman or head of a small office) – who don’t, though badly and lubberly, set objectives, find ways and means of achieving them, coordinate workers’ activity, and monitor it? Scarcely ever. But, if so, for what reason to put in a series of planning, organization, and control a mythical “directing” function connected with leadership?

2. An alter ego of management?

The clear realization of the unfitness of such a treatment of leadership brought last time to a new current. A number of authors acquired firm conviction that it needs to distinguish between management and leadership as different activities. They say that these concepts are certainly interrelated but represent quite independent phenomena.

Many are inclined to belief that this tradition of contrasting leaders with managers was laid by A. Zaleznik. According to him, leader is an artist who squeezes his way in organizational jungles with the help of creation and intuition whereas manager simply solves problems guided by rationality and control.[5] True, it is recognized that management and leadership can be concentrated in the same person. However such a situation is neither unique nor surprising. Financier often lives in harmony inside himself with merchant, designer with engineer, and so on. As to scientists they can be not only mathematicians or economists but also biochemists and geophysicists.

Sometimes one can hear that “leaders create and articulate vision” while “managers ensure it is put into practice”.[6] The others emphasize the dynamical aspect of the subject. In their opinion, management “produces a degree of predictability and order” whereas leadership creates “change, often to a dramatic degree”.[7] It means that managers don’t relate to leadership at all as well as leaders stay apart from management. Their interplay resembles the relations between designer developing projects and technologist elaborating the prerequisites and opportunities for their implementation.

Moreover, this opposition is brought to the logical end where leader appears as a catalyst focused on strategy whilst manager becomes a simple performer. In A. Bryman’s words, the latter is an “operator”, or a “technician” concerned with the “here-and-now of operational goal attainment”.[8] In other words, leaders establish what to do and managers do what is established.

W. Bennis and J. Goldsmith go further. According to them, “there is a profound difference – a chasm - between leaders and managers. A good manager does things right. A leader does the right things. Doing the right things implies a goal, a direction, an objective, a vision, a dream, a path, a reach”. Management relates to the efficiency and leadership to the effectiveness. The first is associated with the “How” while the second with the “What” and “Why”. Managers concern with “systems. controls, procedures. policies, and structures. Leadership is about trust - about people” what means “innovating and initiating”. Thus “leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile”. It “looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line”.[9]

Nevertheless, despite of such rigid, categorical, and, in the same time, far-reaching conclusions, no serious reasons are brought to support them and – what is much more important – no distinct criteria are adduced. How to differ managers from leaders? The question remains unanswered. Clear, one can, if desired, consider as such criteria the “How”, “What”, and “Why” as well as the opposition of the concepts “efficiency” and “effectiveness”. But, unluckily, these criteria are even more blurry than what is compared with them.

Indeed, the efficiency is associated with the right performance (how to do) and the effectiveness with the right setting of objectives (what and why to do). It means that leader formulates a task, and manager accomplishes it. However we got used to think that the objective setting is one of the basal functions of management as a part of the planning.[10] But here it is committed to leaders.

Rather strangely looks a manager discontinued to be himself and turned into a performer. His chief care is how to achieve the goal preset. Is it reasonable or well-founded? This question exceeds the bounds of his competence. The picture is clear and has, in fact, nothing of new. It only renames the figures. Manager is called leader and the performer – manager.

More explicit is the position of J. Kotter. As he states, “leadership is different from management, but not for the reason most people think. Leadership isn’t mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having charisma or other exotic personality traits. It’s not the province of a chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it; rather leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment”. Besides, he suggests relatively distinct criteria for distinguishing between managers and leaders. In his opinion, manager ensures the goals to be achieved and is provided with authorities for such a function whereas leader, forecasting the future, “grasps” and formulates strategic guidelines for the organization. The task of manager consists in staff recruiting and appointing while leader should provide it with common vision and prospects of development, preparing to future changes. If “management is about coping with complexity” then “leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change”.[11] Manager controls the subordinates and account for outcomes they get. And as to leader he mobilizes and inspires the workers, awaking them to act with increasing output.

At that the key difference of leader from manager is reduced to that the workers follow him of their own free will. Leader has no warrant to reward or to punish them. Nevertheless, they entrust themselves to leader, accepting his demands. As regards manager he rests upon a formal authority. It is just this power that gives him to force subordinates to accomplish the objectives set.

This picture of interrelations of management and leadership seems by first sight to be a well-shape and sound one. In essence, the management functions are split into two components. The first embraces the technical side of it (problem-solving, planning, budgeting, staffing, controlling, etc.) and the second deals with personal one (motivating, inspiring, directing, aligning people to a shared objective). However it begins to resemble a non-sense as soon as the criteria suggested find some application.

Indeed, if management is a technical aspect and leadership a personal one, does it mean that managers don’t play in their activity any interpersonal role? Is manager an insensitive robot, some technical shuttle scurrying about the administrative machine or he communicates also to his subordinates? Does manager only issue directives or he discusses the decisions with the workers too? And leader – is he somehow gotten involved with the technical proceedings or merely hovers over the organization and declares his precepts from the height?

Can one at all structurally differentiate the technical and interpersonal parts of the management? Doesn’t it resemble the attempts to separate the soul from the body? After all, the interpersonal is only a component of the administrative systems and, having lost it, they will cease to work.

Thus, Kotter make an ordinary logical error. One structural element of a system is opposed not to another element but to that system as whole. As a consequent, the system itself is reduced to a structural element’s status.

3. Formal and informal leadership

Another opposition – between formal leaders and informal ones – is also quite queer. As though managers, being formal leaders, predominantly have no moral authority, aren’t held in respect and don’t influence their people. Or may be informal leaders of an organization don’t at all need for some official power?

What is the moral leadership? As states one of its investigators, such leader “interprets men to themselves, make them aware of their ideals, and converts their vague dreams into definite aims of conduct”.[12] He suggests them respect and trust. The followers move themselves after him not because he can award or punish them. They believe him to be a right person whose word and proceeding don’t disagree. The people have no doubt that the leader knows where it must be gone, and is willing sincerely to wend his way along with followers, not keeping a separate side-track for himself.

In any organization managers are endowed with certain authorities over the subordinates, but not because manager as a person without official power is worth nothing, and not only because this power is necessary means of influencing workers. If he doesn’t have some distinctly defined authorities a chaos arises within the sphere of his responsibility. The organization loses its hierarchical structure and turn into a primitive association of “free shots”.

But can one say that manager is able to be at the head of organization or its any unit only because he got formal authorities? Certainly, no. Otherwise there would be no bad managers. They need only to acquire wider and stronger authorities – and even the most useless of them would succeed. However such events don’t occur.

Now let’s imagine that in an organization one of the workers has obtained high moral authority and trust although he doesn’t possess any official power. All his colleagues are willing to follow him anywhere by his first call. He has only to suggest something - that becomes at once unquestionable for others. Can we consider this situation as a good for organization?

Surely, no. It is a bomb of delayed-action. What has to feel manager as a “formal leader”? His status is entirely lowered. He can do nothing against his unofficial competitor. This manager should either ingratiate himself with the last or cease to fulfill his own duties. In fact, both cases turn into chaos, although nominally the hierarchical structure of the organization is still kept. Thereby it becomes a non-sense to demand something from the official person for, in reality, he has nothing to manage. In the same time, the informal one who practically rules the people has nothing to count for.

The unofficial leadership in organizations is acceptable only to a limited extent. As soon as it threatens the status and the authorities of formal management such a “guerilla” must be blocked. Clear, the question isn’t of draconian measures suppressing the wills of persons involved. However apathetic attitude to such situation inevitably brings to the disorganization.

On opposing leader to manager Kotter substitutes their proper interrelations for the collision of formal and informal leaders. He considers leader as an official and manager as an unofficial one. But informal leaders in organizations are not endowed with some particular status. In a sense, they are “anomalies”, deviations from the “normal” organizational structure. That’s why they cannot be regarded as a kind of authorized persons.

Naturally, it would be foolish to overlook and ignore the informal leaders. All the more, it is inadmissible to suppress or burn out them. After all, unofficial structure appears not on someone’s whim but as an organization’s reaction to the task to be fulfilled. And if the official structure doesn’t cope with the requirements of the situation then the organizational system is spontaneously attuned, compensating the defects of the initial project.

Thus, if the informal leader stays within certain limits he can be of essential benefit for the organization, filling up the derelictions of official channels of information and influence. However it is not a reason for turning all on its head and raising him over the formal one. Even though such a case exists anywhere it means only that a “revolutionary situation” takes place – a dual power is in hand (the presence of an alternative manager). And this circumstance is fraught with serious consequences for the organization.

If the cause of the diarchy consists in that manager is too weak he must be discharged without delay. And if, in addition, informal leader is strong enough to manage the people he should be appointed to the place freed. In any case, it is unacceptable to give informal leader to raise his actual status (the potential of influencing the workers) up to the level of the formal one.

True, in organizations the official and unofficial leaderships often coincide, that is the manager organically unites within himself the necessary skills of administering and the leader traits. It is a great luck because in this case the challenge to the management hierarchy is radically reduced. Nevertheless even such a manager subjects the informal acting to formal one. He uses his charisma, authority, and influence to achieve the organizational goals. Otherwise – when the informal acting begins to prevail and he expresses the willingness to give up the organization’s interests to the strengthening of his own personal popularity as well as the respect and trust on the part of subordinates - the formal leader becomes perhaps yet more dangerous than the informal one capable to plunge it into a state of dual power.

Anyway, Kotter splits the manager’s figure into two parts. He picks out from it a leader’s “self” that, being a component of the manager’s personality – at that not always necessary, – turns out a separate entity acquiring an independent existence, along with the parent’s “body”. Naturally, his mind falls apart too. Therefore the qualities required for successful management get distributed among two figures instead of single one.

Does it mean that leader’s and manager’s figures are mutually exclusive? In Kotter’s opinion, certainly no. They act side by side in the same organization and further its mission by common efforts. He maintains that “the smart companies value both kinds of people and work hard to make them part of the team”. Moreover, in principle, these qualities permit of a combination within a single person. According to Kotter, organizations “can begin to groom their top people to provide both”.[13] Nevertheless it is hard to chance upon this sort of examples. Obviously, they are not observable.

In this connection a quite legal question arises. Why organizations really don’t attempt to cross the manager’s and leader’s figures? The answer is rather limpid. When the leader’s self gets an independence from manager’s one but at that doesn’t quit his body an inevitable clash emerges between them. It is nothing else than a “professional schizophrenia”. As a consequence, it tears to pieces also managerial work. And the single way to avoid such a “sickness” is to settle this “untethered” leader’s self back into the manager’s mind. Only in this way one could return to a reasonable conception of leadership as a constituent part of managerial practice.

The intermediate totals

Leadership should not be considered a managerial function. While leader qualities constitute an integral part of the arsenal of many non-managers a good deal of managers themselves doesn’t evince such abilities in carrying out their everyday tasks. They remain unacquainted with leadership practice just as only a few leaders acquire administrative skills.

Equally, leadership cannot be regarded as an alter ego of management. In the light of such interpretation leaders appear those deciding what to do, formulating the right things whereas managers – having to fulfill them properly, to find the right ways to goals preset. But the elaboration of objectives as an inseparable component of the planning is of the primary tasks of management. Those not determining what must be done, automatically turn into ordinary performers. Their place in the organization is taken by leaders. Managers still implement the routine planning, mobilize the subordinates and ensure their joint activity as well as control operations. As to leaders they focus on articulating strategic guidelines, motivating and inspiring workers, ruling deep transformations, and surveying the organization’s affairs from a bird’s eye height. Thereby the manager’s nature gets splintered and divided among manager himself and leader. However having lost the principal part of its potential, management scarcely can be successful.

The reverse of the same medal is the representation of managers as formal leaders differing from “standard” ones only in being endowed with certain official power over the staff. But the authorities are destined not for impacting on subordinates in the way leaders do. Without some formal regulation of rights and duties no complex order is attainable. As a result the organization gets deprived of its hierarchical structure and transmutes into a primitive association.

Do managers hold sway over the workers only on the account of the official power? If so, where come bad ones from? After all, the extremely wide and strong authorities always could make up their professional smallness. Besides, when an “informal” person gains some greater influence in the organization than his formal “counterpart” has, the former receives the odds at the expense of the latter. Then it becomes incongruous to demand anything from the both – in the first case because of practical impotence and in the second because of official irresponsibility.

Therefore, all these prevalent approaches fail and don’t allow to obtain some distinct comprehension of the nature of leadership. In spite of their external lure they face at once with difficulties at meeting the reality of organizational life. That’s why an insistent necessity of fresh theoretical perspectives arises - to grasp by a single glance leadership and management and to represent them as different but kindred modes of influencing people.

[1] Ovid. The Fasti of Ovid. L.: Macmillan, 1909. P. 6.

Every door has two faces, this and that,

Whereof one looks outwards and the other inwards).

[2] Stogdill R. M. Handbook of leadership: A survey of theory and research. N. Y.: Free press, 1974. P. 259.

[3] Salaman G. Competences of managers, competences of leaders // Leadership in organizations: Current issues and key trends / Storey G. (ed.). L.: Routledge, 2004. P. 58.

[4] Keedy E. E. Moral leadership and the ministry. Boston (MA): Horace Worth, 1912. P. 34.

[5] Zaleznik A. 1977. Managers and leaders: Are they different? // Harvard business review. Vol. 55. № 3. P. 67 – 78.

[6] Syrett M., Hogg C. (eds.). 1992. Frontiers of leadership: An essential reader. Cambridge (MA): Blackwell, 1992. P. 5.

[7] Conger J. A. Learning to lead: The art of transforming managers into leaders San Francisco (CA): Jossey – Bass, 1992. P. 20.

[8] Bryman A. Leadership and organization. L.: Routledge, 1986. P. 6.

[9] Bennis W. G., Goldsmith J. Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Reading (MA): Perseus, 1997. P. 4.

[10] See, f. e.: Drucker P. F. Management: Tasks, responsibilities, practices. N. Y.: Harper Collins, 1999. P. 400; Petrosyan A. E. Management: Ideas, problems, tests (in Russian). Rostov on Don: Phoenix, 2008. P. 41 – 43.

[11] Kotter J. P. A force for change: How the leadership differs from management. N. Y.: Free press, 1990. P. 103 – 104.

[12] Griggs E. H. Moral leaders. N. Y.: Abingdon press, 1940. P. 11.

[13] Kotter J. P. What leaders really do // Syrett M., Hogg C. (eds.). Frontiers of leadership: An essential reader. Camb. (Mass.): Blackwell, 1992. P. 16 – 17.

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