Follow me this way!

Follow me this way!

Most any substantive of discussion of Agile sooner or later turns to leadership.  As teams embrace the principles in the Agile Manifesto that foster self-organization and self-management, they often require a shift away from classic management techniques.  In some cases, as teams begin exploring Agile the idea of management becomes an anathema, while in other cases, the concepts of leadership and management are conflated. Leadership and management are not the same thing and in most organizations, both are required.

A manager is a person responsible for controlling, administering and/or directing all or part of an organization.  Alternatively, a leader is a person that provides motivation and vision that compels others to work with the leader to achieve the goals.

Comparing leaders and managers provides even more distinctions.  

Attribute Leader Manager
Power Informal, Earned Formal, Hierarchical
People Followers, Voluntary Subordinates, Authority
Decision Making Facilitates Makes
Vision Tactical Strategic
Risk Posture Avoid Taker
Culture Endorses Shapes

The list of attributes could go on; however, we can boil down the difference between a manager and leader to the distinction to three critical characteristics: earned power, vision, and followers. Most, if not all, of the rest of the attributes build on that base.  While the difference between a leader and manager is knife edge sharp, who plays each role is far murkier.

A leader provides the vision and motivation needed to push the boundaries, change direction and challenge the status quo ante. Managers, on the other hand, deliver the administration needed for an organization to run; for example, creating and managing budgets, hiring and firing personnel, signing contracts, and other equally important tasks.  Without someone to “handle” these tasks, no amount of leadership will keep an organization going in the long run. What makes a manager in the knowledge economy different is the need to empower subordinates to plan the day-to-day detail and leaders to leader all the while providing the environment for the magic to happen.

In the knowledge economy, value is dependent on the information available and the ability of people workers who are no longer undifferentiated cogs in the machine.  In this new world, management and leadership are not easily separated. Knowledge workers look to their managers and leaders to provide a vision and a purpose. In order to deliver organizational value, managers must provide the organization that facilitates the development of skills and talent while simultaneously inspiring results. In today’s business environment the role of manager and leader are dependent on each other.  Both roles are required in any partnership, team or multinational organization. There is no reason why a leader and manager can’t be the same person playing different roles based on context, but both roles need to be played.

Management / Leadership Thread

  • Five Different Management Styles
  • Leadership versus Management (Current)
  • Management Styles in Agile Teams
  • Management Styles in Scaled Agile
  • Servant Leaders, Revisited