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The best managers manage by leading

Great management or great leadership. What would you say is more important? It's a tricky question when you really think about it.

Holly Ross recently wrote a post on associationTECH comparing managers to leaders, and got the wheels turning about whether we need more managers or more leaders to run successful businesses.

On one hand, you need leaders to help set the vision and strategy, but you can't have too many leaders so that nothing gets done. You also need good managers to execute the vision. She concludes "... great management without leadership simply won't be effective in our current climate."

I agree with Holly. As I explained in my comment on her post, in general, you need both great leaders and great managers. However, one special case is when we live in changing times, like now. In times like these, I believe leadership trumps management.

Many industries, from associations to newspapers to pharmaceutical companies, are undergoing tremendous change due to economic conditions. We need strong leaders to rise up, set the goals and agenda, and guide us to the light at the end of the tunnel.

But what separates an average leader from a great leader is their ability to ensure that their organization can follow where they lead. Great leaders set realistic goals. They put the proper support system in place to achieve those goals.

And I think that's where great managers come in. Great managers are part of that support system, and they manage by leading their teams within the limits of the overall strategic direction.

A good example of this is the video that Holly included in her post. It shows how the "first follower" supports the leader by leading others to the overall goal of getting everyone to dance.

In essence, a great leader and a great manager are actually very similar. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A great leader can be a great manager, and a great manager can also be a great leader. And in changing times, you need leaders, and you need managers who can manage by leading.

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