Leadership and Management by Stephen R. Covey

Posted on August 23, 2011

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Leadership and Management are two different things. Leadership is not management. Leadership has to come first.

Management is a bottom-line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish? In the words of both Peter Drucker and  Warren Bennis, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies, and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!” But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We’re making progress.”

As individuals, groups, and businesses, we’re often so busy cutting through the undergrowth we don’t even realize we’re in the wrong jungle. And the rapidly changing environment in which we live makes effective leadership more critical than it has ever been — in every aspect of independent and interdependent life.

We are more in need of a vision or designation and a compass (a set of principles or directions) and less in need of a road map. We often don’t know what the terrain ahead will be like or what we will need to go through; it much will depend on our judgment at the time. But an inner compass will always give us direction.

Effectiveness — often even survival — does not depend solely on how much effort we expend, but on whether or not the effort we expend is in the right jungle. And the metamorphosis taking place in most every industry and profession demands leadership first and management second.

In business, the market is changing so rapidly that many products and services that successfully met consumer tastes and needs a few years ago are obsolete today. Proactive powerful leadership must constantly monitor environmental change, particularly customer buying habits and motives, and provide the force necessary to organize resources in the right direction. (…)

Efficient management without effective leadership is, as one individual phrased it, “like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.” No management success can compensate for failure in leadership. But leadership is hard because we’re often caught in a management paradigm.

At the final session of a year-long executive development program in Seattle, the president of an oil company came up to me and said, “Stephen, when you pointed out the difference between leadership and management in the second month, I looked at my role as the president of this company and realized that I had never been into leadership. I was deep into management, buried by pressing challenges and the details of day-to-day logistics. So I decided to withdraw from management. I could get other people to do that. I wanted to really lead my organization.

“It was hard. I went through withdrawal pains because I stopped dealing with a lot of the pressing, urgent matters that were right in front of me and which gave me a sense of immediate accomplishment. I didn’t receive much satisfaction as I started wrestling with the direction issues, the culture-building issues, the deep analysis of problems, the seizing of new opportunities. Others also went through withdrawal pains from their working style comfort zones. They missed the easy accessibility I had given them before. They still wanted me to be available to them, to respond, to help solve their problems on a day-to-day basis.”

“But I persisted. I was absolutely convinced that I needed to provide leadership. And I did. Today our whole business is different. We’re more in line with our environment. We have doubled our revenues and quadrupled our profits. I’m into leadership.”

I’m convinced that too often parents are also trapped in the management paradigm, thinking of control, efficiency, and rules instead of direction, purpose, and family feeling.

And leadership is even more lacking in our personal lives. We’re into managing with efficiency, setting and achieving goals before we have even clarified our values.”

Extracts from the Seven Habits of Highly effective People

By Stephen R. Covey

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