The Idea in Brief

Tough, persistent; smart, analytical; tolerant, and of good will—all qualities you want in your best managers. How else can they perform their jobs: solving problems and directing people and affairs?

But let’s face it: It takes neither genius nor heroism to be a manager. Even highly valued managers don’t inflame employees’ passions and imagination. Nor do they stimulate the change that all organizations require. For those qualities, you need leaders, not managers.

In this 1977 groundbreaking article, Abraham Zaleznik challenged the traditional view of management. That view, he argued, omits essential leadership elements of inspiration, vision, and human passion—which drive corporate success.

Managers and leaders are two different animals. Leaders, like artists, tolerate chaos and lack of structure. They keep answers in suspense, preventing premature closure on important issues. Managers seek order, control, and rapid resolution of problems.

Companies need both managers and leaders to excel. But too often, they don’t create the right environment for leaders to flourish. Zaleznik offers a solution.

The Idea in Practice

##Managers##Leaders Attitudes toward goals##•Take an impersonal, passive outlook.#•Goals arise out of necessities, not desires.##•Take a personal, active outlook. Shape rather than respond to ideas. Alter moods; evoke images, expectations. #•Change how people think about what’s desirable and possible. Set company direction. Conceptions of work##•Negotiate and coerce. Balance opposing views.#•Design compromises. Limit choices.#•Avoid risk.##•Develop fresh approaches to problems.#•Increase options. Turn ideas into exciting images.#•Seek risk when opportunities appear promising. Relations with others##•Prefer working with people, but maintain minimal emotional involvement. Lack empathy.#•Focus on process, e.g., how decisions are made rather than what decisions to make.#•Communicate by sending ambiguous signals. Subordinates perceive them as inscrutable, detached, manipulative. Organization accumulates bureaucracy and political intrigue.##•Attracted to ideas. Relate to others directly, intuitively, empathetically.#•Focus on substance of events and decisions, including their meaning for participants.#•Subordinates describe them with emotionally rich adjectives; e.g., “love,” “hate.” Relations appear turbulent, intense, disorganized. Yet motivation intensifies, and unanticipated outcomes proliferate. Sense of self##•Comes from perpetuating and strengthening existing institutions.#•Feel part of the organization.##•Comes from struggles to profoundly alter human and economic relationships.#•Feel separate from the organization.

Can Organizations Develop Leaders?

Zaleznik suggests two ways to develop leaders. First, avoid overreliance on peer-learning situations, e.g., task forces. They stifle the aggressiveness and initiative that fuel leadership.

Second, cultivate one-to-one relationships between mentors and apprentices; e.g., a CEO chooses a talented novice as his special assistant. These close working relationships encourage intense emotional interchange, tolerance of competitive impulses, and eagerness to challenge ideas—essential characteristics of leadership.

What is the ideal way to develop leadership? Every society provides its own answer to this question, and each, in groping for answers, defines its deepest concerns about the purposes, distributions, and uses of power. Business has contributed its answer to the leadership question by evolving a new breed called the manager. Simultaneously, business has established a new power ethic that favors collective over individual leadership, the cult of the group over that of personality. While ensuring the competence, control, and the balance of power among groups with the potential for rivalry, managerial leadership unfortunately does not necessarily ensure imagination, creativity, or ethical behavior in guiding the destinies of corporate enterprises.

A version of this article appeared in the January 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review.