Few things in business are more costly than a manager in a leadership position. – Steve Keating
Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive.
But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager.
Managing and leading are two entirely different things. We’re not talking semantics here, we are talking about a difference as large as night and day.
Managers use a microscope and leaders use a telescope. Managers examine the details, vital details yes, but details all the same. A leader not only sees the details they also see the much bigger picture, they see the wide angle view. While a manager sees what is, a leader sees what could be…and what should be.
Managing is about stuff, budgets, inventories, processes, etc. Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. Better management helps a organization survive, better leadership helps an organization grow.
Successful organizations need both leaders and managers. Which one, managers or leaders, are more important is like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. (Just an aside, if you really want to know which one came first read Genesis in The Bible, it’s abundantly clear that the chicken came first.)
When managers occupy a leadership position without actually leading progress slows down. It can slow down so much that it actually stops. Whenever I see a business that is not growing I almost always see a manager in a position of leadership.
Good managers can learn to lead after moving into a leadership position. The longer they try to manage when they should be leading the less likely they are to ever truly lead. The most successful leaders were leaders before they had a true leadership position. They understood that leadership was more about their disposition than it was about any position they may one day achieve.
Some leaders have other leadership positions reporting to them. They must be certain that leaders occupy those positions.
Putting managers into leadership positions is a common mistake. It a mistake that produces common results rather then the uncommon results that the most successful organizations use to succeed again and again.
That makes it an incredibly costly mistake.