A long-time client surprised me last week. He called to update me on his pursuit of a new position within his company and, in the course of our conversation, said that his CEO “is an extremely talented manager but not much of a leader.” The assessment itself didn’t surprise me. I have known this CEO for over 30 years and agree completely. What did surprise me was hearing my friend make the distinction. We have often talked about the differences between managing and leading. Like most people, however, he generally uses the terms interchangeably and doesn’t really make a distinction day-to-day—just the kind of thing that drives leadership experts like John Kotter crazy.
For over 40 years, Kotter has been on a mission to get people to think about the distinction between management and leadership. Our ongoing transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, however, has made Kotter’s work much more difficult. We still need to understand the difference between management and leadership, but it is increasingly difficult to be an effective CEO without also being a good leader.