Do projects need leaders more than managers?
Here is a definition of management
Management is the process of achieving organizational goals through engaging in the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling (Bartol & Martin, 1998 in Management).
Here is a definition of leadership (in the enterprise context.)
The process of influencing others to achieve organizational goals (Bartol & Martin, 1998).
Are they mutually exclusive things? Can you lead without management? Can you manage people without leadership?
To be an effective leader you need to have some semblance of organisation. You need to be able to plan your work, understand the outcomes you are trying to achieve lead and motivate others on the way and clear impediments out of the way.
In enterprise project management you need to be able to manage stakeholders, and manage people through a project’s processes. You need to be organised to manage the complexity that comes with the territory. If you aren’t organised you won’t get the respect and trust you need to lead people.
To be an effective manager of people, either reports or stakeholders, you need to be able to lead. Leadership is not technical expertise, and it isn’t having a vision for the product. Leadership is engendering trust in your decisions and confidence in your ability to get things done. Leadership is part of management.
Management without leadership is poor management. Leadership without management is movement seeking a purpose.
The thing is that leadership and management aren’t binary attributes. It isn’t as if you either have it or you don’t. Both of these skills grow as you study and practice them. Actively seeking feedback and reflection speeds up that growth.
So, yes there are some people who are way off the mark, but most, even many of us have great potential.
I was listening to part of a Noam Chomsky interview the other day and he said something like ‘…corporations aren’t run by bad people, they are run by smart people optimising bad systems.’
Maybe a lack of forethought and a lack of big picture thinking is the problem. This thinking falls into the management role of planning, doesn’t it?
And if you need to break out of your current system? That takes leadership.