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Becoming a Holistic Leader: The Right Hand and Left Hand

May 3, 2011

Today, I’m sharing highlights from the chapter of my ebook that looks at the complementary relationship between management and leadership. Be sure to download the ebook, which is of course FREE. Please also share a comment.

Confusion over the two words management and leadership continues on, despite a huge volume being written on the topic during the past two decades. The two words are frequently used interchangeably, but typically without adequate understanding of their different yet complementary functions within organizations. McGill University professor and recognized leading thinker on management, Henry Mintzberg, has argued for a long time that our organizations have been over-led and undermanaged.

What Mintzberg’s referring to is the strong bias in the literature towards leadership during the past 20 years. He believes that not enough attention has been paid to understanding the actual work of managers and how they make decisions and lead in the workplace.

Getting a good grasp, therefore, on how the two functions of management and leadership work together to form a whole approach is vital if we wish to see our organizations and communities well lead and managed. For the purposes of this book, it’s very important to understand how the two can be integrated if one wishes to become a Holistic Leader.

At the heart of the issue is the question: who is a leader in our organization or community? Is leadership specific only to management positions? If so, then leadership is positional in the organizational hierarchy. Or is leadership seen by senior management as being more inclusive, in which people at all levels in the organization are encouraged to develop their leadership abilities and share in the decision-making process? The same applies to the community, where instead of city council and the mayor possessing the monopoly on decision-making they invite citizens to participate in a meaningful way.

When we’re able to clearly articulate what we mean by ‘leadership’ we’ve started towards the creation of a common vocabulary and set of expectations in our organizations and communities. From this will emerge a culture that is defined on how leadership is perceived and practiced.

If an organization chooses the path of participative leadership, as it recreates its corporate culture, the challenge will be how to create a culture that reflects both management and leadership development. For employees in management positions, there is a rapidly growing need to have an approach that embraces both management and leadership competencies. For aspiring managers, these employees need to be factored into the process. The urgency for this is rising as the existing management cadre begins to retire in large numbers over the next few years. Those seeking to move into management are the succession pool, and hence require sustained attention in terms of their developmental needs.

But not everyone wants to be a manager. For those who don’t have such aspirations, the added challenge is how to encourage their leadership development, in the sense of their participating more in decision-making and in taking more initiative. This assumes that senior management wishes to support the creation of a “leaderful” organization because of the benefits this would bring.

So now let’s take a look at the main differences between management and leadership….

Click here to download my new Holistic Leadership eBook, 2nd Edition


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