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Leader vs. Manager in the Headlines

by Miki Saxon

If you were considering purchasing stock in a large corporation or a large bequest to a major non-profit and read the following comments about the CEO from people with firsthand knowledge of him would you buy the stock or donate the money?

  • He was never interested in bureaucratic stuff because he did not want to work as a manager.
  • He would be the first to concede he was much more interested in the life of the mind than the nuts and bolts of administrative work.

Last year when I wrote that bad managers didn’t make good leaders Mike Chitty responded, “I think you can lead if you are lousy manager. You just need good managers to cover your back. Teamwork you see.”

I disagreed then and I haven’t seen any reason to change my opinion—in fact, just the opposite. Right now the largest leader vs. manager mess is playing out on a global stage.

Pope Benedict XVIThe leader in question is Pope Benedict and the above quotes were about him.

In a comment two years ago Nick McCormick said, Leadership and management are very tightly intertwined. Ignoring characteristics of one is done at the expense of the other.”

According to a NY Times article, The church said the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties in 1980 was made solely by Cardinal Ratzinger’s top aide at the time, but church officials also said the future pope was sent a memo about the reassignment.

Obviously, leaders focus on visions and managers read memos.

The Catholic Church is the largest and probably the richest multinational in the world, so there are many business lessons to be learned from what is going on.

The two most obvious that I’ve noticed are

  • protect the brand no matter what, and, more recently,
  • the best defense is a good offense.

What do you think?

Image credit: Jari Kurittu on flickr

2 Responses to “Leader vs. Manager in the Headlines”
  1. DenisNo Gravatar Says:

    Well you are presenting a positional leader here. I am not entirely sure he qualifies :). In addition if he was interested in the day to day operations of the catholic church he might not have been elected.

    The second thing on the overall debate of leader- manager, they are complementary, one informs the other function but they are functions and can be fulfilled by two individual. What fails is to ignore the other function or pretend it does not exist. Further, you may not want or like to be a manager (or a leader) and still accept the function as part of your duty.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Denis, Yes, I am referring to positional leaders and there are two reasons that I don’t believe leader and manager should be separated.

    The first is that they are never peers. Typically the “manager” is subordinate to the “leader,” but the final responsibility rests with the leader and that often means vision trumps sanity. The second reason is that today’s workforce is far more savvy, knowledgeable, and cynical than ever before and it takes both sets of skills to handle them successfully.

    That said, I agree wholeheartedly with your last two sentences.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts, they are always cogent and welcome.

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