My friends at the Center for Aviation & Aerospace Leadership at Embry-Riddle University headed by Brig. Gen. Robert E. Mansfield, Jr., USAF (Ret.) posted an HBR article by John Kotter addressing their core topic, leadership. In the process of mincing words, we gain understanding and achieve clarity about their meaning. My take from the article is a little different from General Mansfield’s but they all work together in the end.
Kotter says “leadership” is about “taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities.”
In the “business engineering” paradigm that I helped develop with guru Daniel S. Appleton, we segregated the processes for achieving operational performance from that which are required for invention, innovation, new product and new business unit development. We called the latter, “new business engineering,” and we modeled the process based on experience that I developed supporting the GTE Intrapreneur Program and modeled with guidance from Gifford Pinchot III. Appleton and I continued to develop and apply new business engineering in support of major corporations including AT&T, EDS, and many leading aerospace and defense manufacturers.
To clarify, new business engineering process is made operational by attributing it with people and technology that perform the work. There are four primary activities:
From “deployment,” there is a hand off to the operational management system and discipline we called “business engineering.”
Kotter writes, “Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change.”
In the new business engineering model, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs research an area of targeted need and problem-solving. (Entrepreneurs are people who create new businesses outside existing ones. Intrapreneurs are described by Pinchot as “dreamers doing,” who work inside existing business organizations.)
To Kotter’s point, people who initiate new ideas and new ventures are leaders no matter where they exist and persist. Existing business organizations may crush intrapreneurs by imposing improper balance of consequences, or they may create an environment in which they may flourish. Creating opportunity for entrepreneurs and intrapreners is another level of leadership. Herein, capitalists have a role to play as do government policy executives.
Kotter says, “Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behavior.”
Character flaws and misbehavior can undermine effective leadership, and that is a different topic. Organizations like the Center of Aviation & Aerospace Leadership are special in that they have a singular focus.
“Management Is (Still) Not Leadership
by John Kotter | 11:00 AM January 9, 2013
A few weeks ago, the BBC asked me to come in for a radio interview. They told me they wanted to talk about effective leadership — China had just elevated Xi Jinping to the role of Communist Party leader; General David Petraeus had stepped down from his post at the CIA a few days earlier; the BBC itself was wading through a leadership scandal of its own — but the conversation quickly veered, as these things often do, into a discussion about how individuals can keep large, complex, unwieldy organizations operating reliably and efficiently.
That's not leadership, I explained. That's management — and the two are radically different.
In more than four decades of studying businesses and consulting to organizations on how to implement new strategies, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people use the words "leadership" and "management" synonymously, and it drives me crazy every time.
The interview reminded me once again that the confusion around these two terms is massive, and that misunderstanding gets in the way of any reasonable discussion about how to build a company, position it for success and win in the twenty-first century. The mistakes people make on the issue are threefold:
Mistake #1: People use the terms "management" and "leadership" interchangeably. This shows that they don't see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.
Mistake #2: People use the term "leadership" to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization "management." And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading.
Mistake #3: People often think of "leadership" in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.
In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it's not leadership.
Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it's a recipe for failure.
General Mansfield responded to Kotter.
“Excellent! The mixing of word definitions can really hurt performance. Strategy is another of those words that is too loosely used. Kotter's point about the organizational chart is on target too. So often we tend to see the top blocks as "leadership" positions, when if fact they are management positions. Management makes the org work well.
Maybe if those who thought they were leaders paid a little more attention to management, organizations that find performance (or ethical) lapses would be avoided. Leadership is clearly needed to stay relevant in an industry or market, but the managers and administrators are needed too.”