Strategic Leadership: Vision plus Management

We have a new Pope. As a non-Catholic teaching at a Catholic University, I have been following the coverage of this new leader of the world-wide Roman Catholic Church with interest.

Pope Francis is facing a broad range of issues within the church, from the financial and sexual scandals to infighting within the church hierarchy to fighting pressure for change of church teachings on a wide range of social issues. It’s one hot mess. Much of the discussion prior to his election was whether the conclave should choose a “leader” to lead the people back to the teaching of the church, or choose a “manager” to deal with the ineffective internal working of the church.

For the past 15 or 20 years, most academics have differentiated between leadership and management.  Leaders persuade and inspire change, while managers make sure that the status quo gets delivered on time, on budget, correctly. While this may be a handy set of definitions, leader vs. manager is a false dichotomy. In order to be effective, we must possess both leadership and managerial skills.

If an organization is ineptly managed, with ethical scandal, corruption, or just lazy responses to serious issues, these behaviours will reflect on the organization. They will also spread within the organization.  It’s pretty difficult to lead change when an organization is perceived as corrupt, self-satisfied, internally oriented and broken. You can have all of the vision you want, if your organization is poorly managed, most people won’t trust you to lead you to the vision.

In the reverse, if the organization is well managed, but you don’t have a vision that your followers are aligned to, you’ll still struggle. Management without leadership vision is doomed to failure over the long term, as the organization slowly loses relevance. Vision without management usually results in chaos.

The bottom line? Most organizations in crisis need both vision and management plus a lot of good luck to ensure a turn around. Focusing too much on either leadership or management is a recipe for disaster.  Strong leaders are strategic, they have a clear strategic direction and they put in place the skills, culture and controls to ensure that they attain that direction, while maintaining the current stability of the organization. It’s a tall order for one individual.


Categories: Leadership

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2 replies »

  1. Colleen,
    I started reading your blog several months ago and I enjoy your your viewpoint. In the case of leadership v. management I could not agree with you more. The challenge for most small organizations is finding the one or two individuals who have the ability and the willingness to embrace these endeavors simultaneously. In fact, I think it’s difficult for many who are highly skilled in either leadership or management disciplines to acknowledge that the other is important. Of course I guess if it were easy anyone could do it.

    • Thanks Greg, for being a regular reader. We keep talking about the “leadership gap”, but I think the real gap is the “effectiveness gap”. I look forward to hearing more from you. Colleen

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