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Friday, June 18, 2021

Executive Education

Hearts and Minds: A Brief Glimpse into the Art of Leadership and the Science of Management.

There is a fierce war taking place on the organizational battlefield. It is a conflict that stirs a heated debate and sparks the interest of people worldwide. It is the battle between the ideas of leadership and management. On one side of the fight, you will find people who believe that leadership is the most superior force in the workplace. On the other side, you will find the people who defend the idea that leadership and management are synonymous. However, both sides of the fight are inaccurate, and understanding the nuances between the two will optimize your organization’s effectiveness.

Let’s examine the struggle. 

Leadership.

There are countless definitions found in books and on websites covering the topic of leadership. Each one is more ambiguous than the next. When you boil them down to their essence, each definition loosely concludes that leadership is strategic and empowers people to accomplish the mission. Natural leaders require such attributes as soft skills and emotional intelligence. Moreover, leaders possess empathy, self-awareness, and self-regulation—excellent qualities to have when inspiring a team of people to share a grand vision.

Management.  

The common theme between management definitions is that it is tactical and regulates an organization’s systems, training, and activities. A good manager contains technical competency and cognitive agility. Effective managers have a knack for pattern recognition and are organized, calculated, and data-driven—significant factors to have when overseeing the systems that regulate, manage, and control operations.

Of course, there are managers with high levels of empathy and leaders who are meticulous and organized. The point is that leadership and management are not synonymous. The two have unique characteristics and skills that encompass them. So that leaves us with an important question.

Which one is better for an organization?

Organizations are complex lifeforms built upon people and systems. Each component is dependent on the other. It is almost impossible to answer the question about which one is better for an organization. To say leadership is more important than management is to say a person’s heart is more important than the brain when both must function for a lifeform to stay alive.

Nevertheless, the confusion about which is best for a business remains. Some scholarly experts maintain people who display significant emotional intelligence are best filling positions at the strategic apex of an organization. Simultaneously, many schools of thought argue that managers perform well in roles associated with highly complex, technical assignments. Both points have merit but do not account for every variable in the talent war. Thus, instead of asking which is better, the question should be, “Where is a leader or manager best placed in the organization?” With this in mind, we will continue to investigate how the concepts benefit talent management.

Consider the human factors.

Cookie-cutter methods of assigning people to fill positions just won’t cut it anymore. Pun intended. As mentioned previously, some traditional views maintain that companies should appoint a person gifted with management skills to highly technical roles. Contrary to these traditional views, I posit this is not always the case.

Here’s how.

Let’s imagine an information department under enormous amounts of strain, stress, and slipping into a state of low morale. Perhaps a newly appointed CIO, one possessing leadership, is required. Often, a person’s soft skills are the fix to a department’s declining motivation. Leaders who display empathy set their employees’ minds at ease. With this fictional CIO’s calm demeanor, people once micromanaged now feel safe to make decisions, and productivity recovers.

The inverse can hold true as well. A department in disarray may thrive under the guidance of a well-organized manager. Remember that every situation is different, so we must break out of conventional models and match the personality to the problem when filling a position. The bottom line is that exceptional talent management requires a robust understanding of a department’s problems and finding the right personality type to lead the necessary change. 

Identify the problem. 

Executives, directors, and supervisors must have an up-to-date understanding of their prospect’s strengths and weaknesses and their departments’ limitations. Every team has its nuances, and each day brings on a unique and different challenge—no matter how repetitive a job may seem. Employees come and go. New technology arrives, and new policies spring forward. Each day is different, and executives must continually assess the situation to determine where a prospect can flourish. Without comprehension of the human factors, potential candidates can assume roles that go against their disposition. When this occurs, it frustrates talent and rarely solves the systemic problems that plague a department. However, when people fulfill roles aligned with their personality, both the person and the department begin to grow.

Case and point.  

In building an award-winning team, my organization identified each department’s strengths and weaknesses and recognized which personality type was required to bridge the gap. For example, we placed a gifted manager in a struggling department run by an unorganized and struggling supervisor. We assessed the new manager’s previous performance reviews, observed his skills in action, and surveyed his quality of work for insight into how he could rectify the department’s issues. The board contradicted conventional wisdom by placing a solid manager in a role usually filled by a leadership personality. The impacts were above expectation. All of the feedback confirmed he was the right fit for the position. Due to his exceptional understanding of systems and technical competency, the replacement was perfect for the dismally performing unit. By defying conventional thought, productivity increased, and the section went from worst to first. Taking these lessons learned on how we conduct talent management, we have refined and improved our leadership development functional area, but that is a story for another article.

The heart and mind. 

Ultimately, there should be a cease-fire in the war between the theories of leadership and management. Both leadership and management are essential products of organizational development. Each is essential to a business’s success; they are the heart and mind of a company. You must use both in every functional area of your organization to optimize strategic results.

As we discovered, applying leadership and management theories to talent management is just one example of how deep the rabbit hole could go. Whether it’s a person’s onboarding, promotion, or lateral move, effective talent management identifies the team’s need and matches the correct person to the role, not just a blind dart throw. When you understand the intricate differences between leadership and management and stop viewing one as superior to the other, it acts as a force multiplier. You can best fill roles with the right fit for the job instead of relying on outdated models. Once this form of talent management is in place, your productivity will skyrocket, and best of all, you will build an award-winning team.


Written by Ernest R. Twigg.

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Ernest R. Twigg
Ernest R. Twigg is an award-winning senior executive advisor, author, and speaker at 1st Battalion, 11th Marines. He leads 850 employees and has consulted c-suites across industries to unleash the leadership potential in their employees. Ernest's insight is sought after and is codified in his book "A Leader Provides" and various magazine articles that transcribes military leadership into private-sector gains. Ernest lives in California, where he spends his days playing chess and studying human performance, neuroscience, and leadership. Ernest R. Twigg is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.