Monday, May 14, 2012


IWS Documented News Service


Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau



The Bacharach Blog: Leadership--Pragmatic & Proactive





The Knee-Jerk Dichotomy: Management v. Leadership

Posted by Samuel B. Bacharach on May 11, 2012 •


As an academic I love dichotomies. They stretch the imagination, help us avoid subtly, and enhance focused debate.

My conceptual paradise is a 2 x 2 box where two dichotomies are juxtaposed. Are you in this box or that one? Then the game of trying to figure out which box you belong, “Are you in box A or box B?”, “What type of leader are you?” “Are you transformational or transactional?” “Are you inwardly directed or outwardly directed?” “Are you left or right wing?”

Consultants have made a fortune helping people and organizations figure out which box they belong in.

The problem with these dichotomies is that they simplify the world. They give too much credence to clean, conceptual thinking.

Throughout my academic career I’ve taken pride in conceptual thinking and the clarity of constructs, but when you get out in the real world the constructs become a mess and dichotomies become continuums. You’re not one or the other. You are someplace on the continuum. And where you are on the continuum?

It depends on the situation. You may be a transactional leader one day and a transformative leader the next. You may be internally directed one day and externally directed a week from Tuesday.

And then there is what I consider to be the ultimate knee-jerk dichotomy?

Are you a manager or a leader?

I understand how we in academia can afford this luxury. It’s aesthetically pleasing and makes for a clean little world. If nothing else, academia loves cleanliness. But what I’m amazed at is when such a dichotomy is adhered to in the world of practice.

“We’re looking for a leader,” said one HR director in one corporation.

On the same day, in the same corporation, in reference to the same position another HR official told me, “We’re looking for a manager.”

On numerous occasions I’ve heard chief learning officers talk about their training programs and use this distinction, “We don’t need a leadership training program; we need a managerial training program.” Or “We don’t need a managerial training program; we need a leadership training program.”

Nowhere does this occur more than when we deal with high potentials in a corporate setting. They have technical skills, but what do we give them now that they have responsibility for others? Leadership skills or managerial skills?

No, we give them both. We stop with this knee-jerk dichotomy.

The nice thing about being in this point in my career is that I no longer have to indulge in the luxuries of dichotomies. I don’t want to hire managers that can’t lead and leaders that can’t manage.

I want people to both inspire others and implement ideas. I want the movers in organizations to innovate and create, while at the same time be able to figure out how to manage the process of maneuvering from ideas to results.

I want politicians who can inspire during an election, but once elected can manage for results.

Anyone that’s hiring for a responsible position needs someone who can lead and manage.

The very notion of this dichotomy continuing to get knee-jerk recognition in a world demanding agile, flexible, and solution-based companies, and in a world which we want to retain talent and stimulate the commitment of Gen Y this management/leadership distinction is an anachronism.

This dichotomy between leading and managing is an indulgence in simplicity that we can no longer afford. Especially when asking ourselves what core competencies do we need to move in the future?

Train your managers to lead and your leaders to manage.



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