Leadership expert Professor Warren Bennis once said, “Leaders are people who do the right thing, managers are people who do things right.”

Stanford University Management Professor Robert I. Sutton notes in “True Leaders Are Also Managers,” an August 2010 Harvard Business Review blog post:

I am not rejecting the distinction between leadership and management, but I am saying that the best leaders do something that might properly be called a mix of leadership and management. At a minimum, they lead in a way that constantly takes into account the importance of management.

“Meanwhile, the worst senior executives use the distinction between leadership and management as an excuse to avoid the details they really have to master to see the big picture and select the right strategies.”

As an adjunct to Bennis’ oft-quoted distinction between managers and leaders, Sutton proposes the following:

“To do the right thing, a leader needs to understand what it takes to do things right, and to make sure they actually get done.”

When we praise the value of leadership and begin to denigrate management’s role, we greatly risk failing to act on these experts’ obvious, yet powerful, messages. It’s important to emphasize the role of accountability, measurements, and clear detailed instructions.

Inspiration, a vision for the future, connecting to values and motivations – these are all important leadership roles. But without connecting the dots to what each person needs to do and providing feedback on progress, people can miss the boat. Results are spurred when those in charge provide the right mix of management and leadership.

What are your thoughts about this so-called division of management and leadership roles? To you, in your work, do you focus on the differences or on trying to get the right mix? You can contact me here or on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear from you.