Summary: What leaders really do

Excerpt of “What leaders really do” from Harvard Business Review

Management is about coping with complexity; it brings order and predictability to a situation. But that’s no long enough to succeed, companies must be able to adapt to change. Leadership, then, is about learning how to cope of rapid change.

Management and leadership both involve deciding what needs to be done, creating network of people to accomplish the agenda, and ensuring that the work actually gets done. Their work is complementary, but each system of action goes about the tasks in different ways.

  1. Planning and budgeting versus setting direction
  2. Organizing and staffing versus aligning people
  3. Controlling activities and solving problems versus motivating and inspiring
Leadership complements management; it doesn’t replace it. Management controls people by pushing them in the right direction; leadership motivates them by satisfying basic human needs.
One way to develop leadership is to create challenging opportunities for young employees. Perhaps the most typical and most important is significant challenge early in a career. Leaders almost always have had opportunities during their twenties and thirties to actually try to lead, to take a risk, and to learn from both triumphs and failures. Such learning seems essential in developing a wide range of leadership skills and perspectives. It also teaches people something about both the difficulty of leadership and its potential for producing change.


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