By Biagio “Bill” Sciacca
One common inaccuracy that is often perpetuated in this field is leadership’s conflation with management. It should be understood that the two are distinct yet necessary approaches to problem-solving. Management involves deliberation and dispersal, highlighting others assets and drawing upon them for assignment and application in certain areas. Leadership involves guidance in shifting climates. Entering a new territory, this involves less designation of tasks and more flexibility and visualization. It becomes less about the talents that a particular group possesses and more about the foresight to predict what potentials can be summoned from this group if the challenge presents itself. The main crux here is not differentiating between management and leadership but rather, understanding when one or the other must be effectively put to action.
Understanding the difference between leadership and management should not carry with it the parochial view that the two are mutually exclusive. This is almost never the case. One may be embellished but never at the expense or dismissal of the other. The two styles should be viewed as complementary systems that balance one another, occasionally emphasizing one side when needed. The comprehension of this complementary system should be at a tacit level; it should be implicit which particular acts belong to which particular system. This understanding allows for a leader as well as a team to know which skills should be called upon and by which system they should be performed. Knowledge of these sets of skills and their particular system aids in the understanding of what mixture of management and leadership one should encourage. As we stated earlier, both are necessary and complementary systems but their blend should not arbitrarily be designed as coequal. Situations should be assessed and whatever requirements are levied on an organization should determine the marriage that these systems cultivate.
As these systems are not presented symmetrically, nor should their partnership be expected to continue statically. Architecture is an area of study where the elements of this firm but pliable partnership can be found. German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, known for his extensive ruminations on artistic disciplines, was fascinated by the subject. He is quoted as saying, “I call architecture frozen music.” Architecture can be seen as a still frame, an art form capturing and petrifying the attitudes and culture of an ever-changing society. Goethe’s poetic remark is informed by the time in which he lived. The architectural style of the Baroque era lends itself to this melodic interpretation with its flowing contours and undulations. Obviously, the organic movement of marble and stone is illusory. The façades and domes impart a palpable aesthetic texture and fluidity. But with the skyscrapers of the incoming era, bending buildings became reality. Skyscrapers are an odd paradox. Usually they are seen as cold and emotionless, colorless boxes of glass and steel; on-lookers would rather romanticize the past, longing for the ornate, vivacious constructions of a period like that of Goethe. And yet, skyscrapers actually move; they sway in real-time. The movement is so slight that it often goes unnoticed. The external austerity and stoicism of the skyscraper is met with an internal, unseen flexibility. The key to its success is a strong core that acts to anchor the building and maintain its upright positioning. It prevents the inverted pendulum motion from gathering momentum and toppling the structure. The protracted metaphor here is this: The systems that help shape an organization should have this same plasticity. They should have the ability to shift their weight in changing environments. The leader then becomes the central column around which the organization transfers its weight, not allowing one system or the other to gain too much power and collapse the structure. A leader must always be present to maintain a working balance and a structural integrity.