Thursday, October 2, 2008

Difference Between Management And Leadership

My son's class started reading The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens and I went back browsing The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.

In the book I found a quote from Peter Drucker

Management is doing things right,
Leadership is doing the right things.

The author, Stephen R. Covey illustrates the difference with a little story.

You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way trough the jungle with machetes. They're the producers, the problem solvers. They're cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”

But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We're making progress.”

The other day I was watching Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood. I observed very similar leadership behavior by General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and very similar management behavior by his officers. In small and big issues.

The smallest might be, when he instructed the cook to serve officers same food as for men. He was brought two extra emply plates, because the officers were to be served three course meals (according to the official rules).

A bigger issue was described in New York Times: General Kuribayashi, the highest-ranking officer on Iwo Jima, had instructed their unit to abandon its position so as to concentrate the remaining forces elsewhere on the island. Instead their captain, choosing ancient custom over the explicit directions of a superior officer, put a bullet in his head, after watching his men, one by one, clutch live grenades to their chests.

Dispite the leader had yelled "Wrong battle! Come here and let's continue the battle."

The movie has many more similar examples of good leadership trying to overcome bad management.

Same happens in small scale in many workplaces. Official procedures or long traditions limit people from doing the right thing.

I wonder where were the leaders during US financial crisis? Or during the Chinese milk scandal?

Why didn't they yell "Wrong jungle!"?

Or were there too many people getting blinded by the obvious respond "Shut up! We are making profit."?


Cheri Baker said...

I had read Covey's book and remember now how much that quote resonated with me. I think that the foresight to point out that you are in the wrong jungle must usually be accompanied with strong communication skills and the ability to influence others without making them feel put down.

Sometimes, people feel mighty protective of their jungles. Wrong or right! :)

Thanks for sparking some good thinking.


Samuli said...


this was just a story out of the book - it does not reflect the book in whole. But it was such a good story about leadership and management that I decided to blog it.

Naturally shouting "Wrong Jungle!" is not the way to initiate and communicate change. That is a much more complex issue of understanding why people resist change, and understanding how to communicate change.

You have blogged about that recently, and I also wrote earlier about change resistance and about leading change.