I’ve written several times in this blog about the need for leadership versus management in just about any endeavor you can think of. I was lucky to have learned early in my career that, in terms of results or outcomes, leadership works and management mostly doesn’t. Leadership encourages followers to be the best that they can be, to achieve beyond expectations. Management strives to keep them under control and avoid rebellious behavior. Management is for things; leadership is for people.
While fulfilling my military obligation right out of college, I was fortunate to work under commanders who led, challenging me to use all my capabilities to accomplish goals far beyond the norm. As soon as I had subordinates, I followed suit and urged my people to outdo themselves. I was so successful that I was promoted rapidly and moved up the chain of command until I reached the upper executive ranks.
Over the years, I came to appreciate that the U.S. military, especially the Marines, understood very well that leadership works and management doesn’t. I worked constantly with the military all during the Vietnam years and relied on leadership to accomplish my goals. It never failed me.
So why, I have to ask, do we Americans so often fail to lead and try instead to manage?
I don’t know the answer to my question, but I have some indications. We Americans pride ourselves on our rugged individualism. We celebrate our one-by-one personal achievements rather than what we accomplish as a team or group. That makes us unlike foreign cultures I have known which emphasize teamwork and goals reached only by everyone working together.
It’s long since time that we matured as a nation learned to value leadership and teamwork and put aside our emphasis on controlling people. Let’s learn to be the best that we can be.