For decades U.S. business has been castigated in virtually all media for its "inability to manage". Seemingly every other nation has demonstrated that its managers are considerably more effective than American managers. Regardless of whether this is in fact true, I believe we need to look to a more generic issue rather than continue to lament the ineffectiveness of our incumbent executives as well as our business schools.

A hypothesis: The current image of the roles of leaders and managers is incompatible with true effectiveness in a global economy.

The current image of the CEO of an organization is that he or she must be both a leader and a manager. My experience with more than 85 organizations causes me to believe that these two roles are incompatible and cannot be performed by any one person regardless of his or her capabilities and competencies.

The leader must be thinking about the right things while managers must be ensuring that things are done right.

The leader has these key functions to perform:
  • establishing a clear vision
  • and values for the organization,
  • determining the business
  • or businesses that the organization should and should not be in,
  • maintaining relationships with key external stakeholders
  • e.g. customers, stockholders, the financial community, etc., and,
  • ensuring that the appropriate culture required for success is
  • developed and maintained by serving as the key teacher and
  • coach of the organization.
These functions are critical to the long-term success of the enterprise and constitute a full plate for anyone. To expect that the person carrying out these functions must also be an effective manager is not only inappropriate but leads to mediocre performance in both the leadership and management functions.

The capabilities, traits, skills and view of the world required for success as an organizational leader are not the same as those required to be an effective organizational manager.

Employees, colleagues, and external stakeholders normally hold expectations that the leader must also be an effective manager.
This is the construct that must be changed.

Truly effective leaders, succumbing to the expectations and often time's pressures to be both leader and manager, inevitably fail. The recently touted "CEO disease" (FORTUNE article) could well have as it root cause the requirement to serve in both roles. How many truly visionary CEO's would succumb to the "CEO disease" if they were not "mucking around" in the implementing aspects of the business?

How can we expect any one individual to retain his/her focus on the whole and the vision of the organization when he/she must also manage complex processes of change in an organization? It simply cannot be done!

I believe that there must become a key organizational position, which is, essentially, a world-class manager. He or she should have the clout and capability to "make things happen" - to "get things done right" - within the clearly established vision, values and parameters established by the leader. The incumbent of this position, incidentally, will probably not be the heir apparent to succeed the CEO/Leader.

The skills, capabilities, knowledge, etc. to be a truly effective planner and implementer are not those that effective leaders possess. In fact, I suspect that they are, in fact, mutually exclusive.

The example of a truly effective Chief of Staff in military organizations as well as the White House (although there haven't been many of those) could well serve as a conceptual model.

The bottom line is that leaders should lead and not manage; managers should manage and not lead. We must come to recognize that these are mutually exclusive skills, talents and requirements. We should highly value, prize and recognize/reward the occupants of the chief manager and create parallel career paths for those capable of carrying out this vital role.

Until we look at the suggested incapability of these two vital roles and separate them in our organizations, our expectations and in our images of organizations, there will be no truly "world class" organizations. It simply cannot be done! Let's recognize that fact and structure our organizations accordingly