The article by John Kotter entitled, “What Leaders Really Do” is one of the most effective pieces of writing for determining where you stand in terms of your role as a leader or manager of an organization and offers suggestions about what elements of leadership you can further develop to make yourself more beneficial to your organization. As this summary and analysis of “What Leaders Really Do” by John Kotter suggests, one aspect of leadership is to first demystify the differences and similarities between leaders and managers and indicates that leaders are not rare people with exceptional charisma necessarily and that there is no hierarchy that exists where one is more important than the other.
Instead, he states that these two roles should compliment one another in their focus and that they are different entities with differing roles in an organization that are interdependent. While many people can play roles as leaders in an organization, it is the duty of management to help guide the group through rough patches and while this involves leadership skills, leading can come from beyond this managerial role from within members of the organization who can be leaders in the sense that they are open to changes and can adapt and help others do the same while management works in terms of organizing and leader work “aligning” people with new directions. Since constant change and evolution are such important parts of the success of an organization, having a balance between the aligning influences of the leaders in the organization and the management-based duties of organization and assistance with stability through the change, is vital. With over-management, the “human” side of the equation is lost, which is just as important as all of the planning, charting, and organization involved on the management side.
Near the beginning of the article “What Leaders Really Do”, John Kotter states that most corporations in the United States are “overmanaged and underled.” This idea underscores many of the main ideas since, if this assessment is correct, it means that many organizations are not allowing managers and leaders to work together, instead favoring a less suitable arrangement where it is the responsibility of management to handle all of the tasks of organization and aligning people. Interestingly, not only does Kotter point out that one is not better than the other (management versus leadership) but that without the equal input and contributions of both sides, change, which is an important and vital element of any organization, is not as accepted as the managers are not able to manage the “human” side of the equation in addition to their organizational duties. Related to this is the important idea that many people in the organization can assume leadership roles and in fact, by having more than one official leadership position, change can be more readily accepted and implemented.
If this is the case as Kotter suggests in “What Leaders Really Do” then there is no “over-management” because they are committed simply to organization and the more general implementation of coming changes on a technical level while the other side of change; acceptance of it and the moving forward end, can be left to those in the organization who are leaders and can assist others through the time of evolution. This is certainly a different version of management and leadership than one encounters in many theories because it excludes management’s roles in some arenas by shifting the responsibility of certain duties to those in the organization who may not hold official titles, but who demonstrate an ability to accept and assist others with change.