Recently a leadership “half-truth” and manager “nonsense” statement showed up in my inbox…
“Leaders thrive amidst chaos and feel handcuffed by order. Managers are repulsed by chaos and feel empowered by order.”
The statement is pretty seductive and it’s both true and false.
I respect the man who wrote it and follow him faithfully. In today’s leadership culture, leader versus manager stuff sells every time. Using a leader vs manager statement is a simple way to make a simple point, at the same time there is probably a little leadership half-truth and manager nonsense mixed in.
The statement is true because…
Leaders are okay with chaos and know that anything new disrupts order. Leaders also understand the chaos that comes with change can’t be stopped by policy, procedure or process (order).
The statement is false because…
It says leaders aren’t concerned about order and that order handcuffs leaders. It’s also false by assuming that leaders don’t want order and that if you want order, you aren’t a leader. It is also implying that a manager can’t be a leader, which is also false.
There are weak leaders everywhere wired for change. They’ll push a really good idea and then walk in next week with another good idea, totally invalidating the effort put toward the previous good idea. These leaders love ideas and see ideas as vision, but they aren’t very strategic. On the other hand, there are leaders who pour concrete around all the procedures and policies, and frustrate change. If a new idea doesn’t fit within the concrete footers of the policy manual, it goes down in flames. Both are poor leaders—one is not just a leader because he generates ideas, and the other one is not just a manager because he generates processes.
Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart, would get up in the middle of the night, sit in the breakroom with the truck drivers, knowing both innovation and order was important. Frank Blake, former CEO of Home Depot, would work in local stores, learning from customers and meeting with store employees, to insure excellence in both vision and operations.
Obviously the author is trying to communicate that we let bean counters keep our organization from being innovative. At the same time, we need to understand that leaders can’t be as simplistic and single-skilled as the quote illustrates and must understand the importance of both strategy and operations. Strategy is the fuel that moves the car to the destination; operations is the oil that keeps the motor from blowing up. This is why we need both a Chief Innovation Officer and a Chief Operations Officer.
And for the other 99% of the organizations that aren’t big enough for a “C suite,”…
It is critical for leaders to grow both strategic and operational skill sets because great leadership insures there is both gas and oil in the car; both are equally important in order to arrive at the desired destination.
The Effective Manager
The Secret Sauce to Becoming a Great Leader