Leading Your Managers, or Managing Your Leaders?

December 14, 2020

Are you a manager or a leader? According to the conventional binary embraced by businesses (and business consultants), leaders are visionary empaths who don’t sweat the small stuff, while managers myopically prize the status quo and micromanage everyone to death.

Unsurprisingly, few people would aspire to become a manager under this definition. (And, incidentally, some of them might notice how the manager’s traits are freighted with all-too-familiar gender bias. Just saying.)

But PR thought leader Gini Dietrich argues that we need to rethink tired, oppositional definitions and look at how leaders and managers should work in complementary roles to meet the extraordinary challenges of the moment we are living through. It goes without saying that organizations need both people with vision and people who can execute, but a more progressive perspective imagines how these two roles work together to achieve shared goals. Here are just some of Dietrich’s updates. The full list is available on her blog, Spin Sucks.

  • When it comes to speaking out on important social issues: “The leader sets the tone for taking a stance; the manager ensures it’s done legally and ethically.”
  • When a firm embraces virtual work: “The leader crafts new ways to work; the manager builds the processes.”
  • When an organization sees signs of burnout: “The leader checks in frequently to make sure people are OK; the manager implements extra benefits.”
  • When a practice group is struggling to make an industry forecast: “The leader takes a long look at the future; the manager looks at the next 90 days.”

Whether you are leading your managers or managing your leaders, it’s worth thinking about how we can celebrate the strengths both kinds of professionals bring to their work. The challenges of the pandemic, unprecedented social change and an unpredictable 2021 economy demand it.