Management should be just a job category

I am reading books on management and leadership. In summary, leadership is about showing others where to go, and management is about showing how to do it.

To paraphrase Stephen Covey, if a company is a group of traders/explorers moving through a jungle, a worker is one of the young fellas carrying bags, a manager is the one on the front of the group clearing bushes using machetes, and a leader is the one standing on the hill yelling “Wrong jungle!”

  • Leadership: setting directions
  • Management: creating environment
  • Working: executing tasks

What the above distinctions really mean is that working, managing, and leading are totally different categories of works. And that’s exactly what we do not “get.” We usually frame management/leadership as just one of the steps in our linear career path. In fact, management and leadership are not an extension. They are fundamental shifting.

Hooray! I am getting it. Except that I don’t: Why switching from being a worker to being a manager/leader is called “promotion”? Shouldn’t that be “transition,” after all? If we understand management and leadership from this angle, we would be more prepared to be…a good boss.

The word “boss” is almost synonymous with “a-hole.” (Is it only me? Never mind.) It is almost as if changing to a manager automatically turns a perfectly nice average Joe into that evil Dick.

I believe most managers work on good terms, but not many of them seem to understand that their job is to help others, not pursue their own agenda. I have seen competent people promoted to executives who continued working the way they worked as a player: going their own way.

Naturally, people working for them silently but swiftly leave that work environment. The new executive analyzes what went wrong with his workers with his brilliantly logical mind, and tries to find better puppets. He cannot see what he has been doing.

I think one of the biggest mistakes of modern corporate structure is to treat management and leadership as something above, not something different from, daily tasks. People flock to management believing it is jan extension, a reward for their hard work. Management should be a job category, and so should leadership.

It is all about framing, as self-help gurus agree. We need to put different tags to managers/leaders and also put them on a level playing field. Managers should be called “Helpers” and Leaders “Watchers.” They are merely slightly glorified version of housekeepers and janitors. They might be paid well, might not be.

The ordinary guy with ordinary tasks should be treated as the king. Doesn’t that make things easier? Gosh, I sound like a Russian agitator living in the 1900s.

P.S. Note from my editor: "And leaders and managers are support staff for the people who do the actual work…someone likens this to an upside down pyramid, with the wide pool of hands-on workers at the top, supported by exec staff."