This collection of topics, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.
Management is not synonymous with leadership, though the roles are somewhat similar in our society. Management typically describes the task of delegating work to others, so the group can effectively meet specific goals through the efficient application of the diverse talents in the group. Leadership typically describes the act of guiding or directing a group toward a common goal.
In most cases, those involved in a management role are tasked with maximizing the performance of a group (whether a team or a collection of teams having a common product or service) with the goal of certain targets, whether measured by quantity or profit (sales dollars compared to the costs for the service or manufacture including wages and materials). In a capitalist economic system, these benefits roll up to the top of the corporate entity, with the promise that some of those benefits will be shared with those below (a trickle down).
Leadership involves bringing everyone together, working toward a common goal, with everyone sharing in the success or failure of that endeavor. A simple analogy is a leader on a football team, whether that be a quarterback or middle line backer, where his on field presence while confidently coordinating assignments among his team mates, based on current game conditions, keeps everyone focused. Since every team has players with similar abilities, an effective leader can help the team win a game while a poor leader can contribute to a loss through mistakes or uninspired efforts; the team wins or loses not an individual.
As populations have grown and corporate entities have become larger and less personal, management becomes a critical role to keep the workers under control while continuing to perform satisfactorily for those at the top. For the more menial jobs, the manager keeps the unmotivated, low paid workers focused on the corporate goals, following predefined procedures. For the more technical jobs, the manager must keep the workers motivated while constrained by corporate policies; if the workers have ideas to improve the product or process the manager can become torn between recognizing the deficiency in some level of management (to have missed those improvements) if such changes are implemented or taking credit for those improvements (to convey to higher levels the manager's competence). Managers are not necessarily tasked with finding an improvement in product or process (since empowering employees renders their management as waste) but instead their main priority is meeting corporate financial goals; management committees can render decisions on product or process improvements (since supposedly they get their high salaries to make such important decisions) though the workers probably have better ideas but the hierarchy and pay structure typically provides little incentive to suggest them.
I have had the pleasure of working in a team environment, where a number of engineers with different backgrounds managed a project by making decisions as needed with just periodic reports to a project manager for cursory oversight. I have also worked for a company that dabbled in a team concept but was unable to unleash them, where instead the managers remained in place as before so the teams could only offer advice. This meant the teams were essentially charged with finding improvements in products and services within the company but with no implicit rewards for doing so.
Inspirational leadership is sorely missed, as there is no one working toward the benefit of the masses, to share in the tremendous wealth generated by the complex manufacturing and economic entities found in the 21st Century. Leadership gets different parties working together, not dividing one group from others just to keep the main followers in line.
Those portrayed as political leaders are typically speaking as if they wish to see all their constituents benefitting from their efforts in a political office but in practice today's politicians are usually finding ways to benefit their most important contributors while sounding as if those plans will in some way contribute to more than will happen in implementation.
Those portrayed as religious leaders are typically speaking as if they wish to see all their followers benefitting from their efforts but in practice they are often finding ways to put down other groups (whether that is another religion, like Christian vs Moslem, or a specific target to ridicule like a homosexual), as if putting down another group somehow elevates the first group.
People are social creatures, always seeking to fit in with others. When a team works together it can achieve what cannot be accomplished by an individual. Diversity in a team generally means the best ideas will win when proper respect is in place (the varying skill sets can provide alternative solutions for any problem but the debates among equals will prune them appropriately). Management should be coordinating efforts to the benefit of all, not just those at the top. Otherwise, with the lack of respect shown for those working at the bottom of a corporate ladder, we find low wages, brutal working conditions (when employees are no longer respectfully treated as human beings), and often abuse of the local environment.
There is an entreprenurial spirit in most people, driving the ambition to find better products or better ways to make them. Who doesn't want to find an easier way to do a task (whether at home or at work)? In a team, an entrepreneur can work with his/her teammates to share the benefits (just as in hunting tribes where the best hunters might get the first choice of meat). The hierarchical management structure suppresses those tendencies because an entrepreneur expects to benefit from his/her efforts but while in a lower level of the corporate domain the benefits go to those at the top (as in more profits for the company) with only a potential for some undefined payback that might occur at some future date.
A manager is tasked with controlling a group of employees, where there can be no real effective leverage of their skills and ideas because it is now more important that the profits of any enterprise go to the top while the workers are paid only the minimum possible wages and benefits necessary to keep them from leaving. This cannot be the optimum arrangement for the betterment and enrichment of mankind.
created - March 2013
last change - 03/18/2013
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