Leadership Is Not Enough

There seems to be a belief that the key to organizational or team success is leadership. You have no doubt heard the “if only we had good leadership” lament or the “there is no real leadership here” complaint.  Both of these, and the many others like them, give the impression that THE reason for success or failure is leadership.  Indeed, in my MBA classes on high performance teams, students almost always say the reason for a successful or unsuccessful team is leadership.  Unfortunately, leadership is not enough for either success or failure.

Leadership is ONE of the elements that contributes to success, but it is by no means the only or even necessarily the most significant element.  Although there is no agreed to definition of leadership, most current views on the subject consider that leadership occurs in the creating of visions for what could be (also known as futures) and engaging (also known as motivating, empowering, or inspiring) people in pursuing the accomplishment of those visions.  So leadership creates futures, but it does not fulfill them – that is the domain of management.

The accomplishment of any vision depends on sufficient and appropriate structures, practices, and routines.  In some cases, the visions leaders create can be accomplished with relatively minor alterations in current ways of doing things.  In other cases, however, there must be substantial restructuring, old practices and routines have to be replaced with newer ones, and new people hired or existing people retrained.  In both cases, it is management, not leadership, which does the work.

Management (the practice, not the people) provides the structural and operational integrity needed to fulfill on any objective, goal, or vision that is created through leadership.  Organizational and team success is the result of complementarity between leadership and management.  Successful organizational change is no different – it requires a partnership between leadership and management.

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