Recently I attended a business dinner with a group of senior executives and the subject of what is the difference between “leadership” and “management” came up. Despite an energized discussion, by the end of the evening we had not arrived at a common agreement.
To me, this demonstrates that the profession of management is in trouble. Actually, management is not even seen as a profession… and it should be!
Look around you where you are sitting reading this blog. Nothing in the room you are in was not touched at some point in its creation by a manager. The chair in which you sit, the building that shelters you, the coffee you drink – all came about thanks to processes and people being managed. Our society depends on managers, and management is the pre-eminent profession of the 21st century. Yet it has no coherent unified body of practices, discipline and processes, unlike, for example, the accounting and legal professions.
Why is that?
The sad truth is that anybody can become a manager, and there are few consequences if one mucks it up. Managerial philosophy, values and practices are inconsistent. Oh unfortunate employees!
What we need to do is to treat management as a craft. What’s a craft? A craft is the lifelong pursuit of mastery of a body of knowledge. Practitioners of the craft of management would be expected to follow common principles, rules and standards of engagement.
If all this was in place, my colleagues and I would not have spent the evening arguing about the differences in meaning between leadership and management. We would know. Our profession would be defined by precedent and practice.
I believe companies would be very much better managed and employees would be more productive if management would be recognized as a profession. Everyone would benefit from increased respect, consistency, and clarity of expectations. And their managers would be held accountable to practice their craft in a clearly delineated manner to set standards.