Saving Management From Our Obsession With Leadership

For decades, business thinkers and the executives who look to them for insight have elevated the visionary, inspirational leader over the useful yet pedestrian good manager. But evidence all around us suggests that we devalue management practices at our peril: What we’ve come to denigrate as mere management (done by those who are merely managers) is incredibly difficult and valuable. It becomes all the more vital during times of disruption and crisis. Take the COVID-19 pandemic: Whether we’re talking about navigating supply chain disruptions, operating safely on the front lines, or simply keeping doors open for customers, businesses have desperately needed people who know how to coordinate action, solve technical problems, and deal skillfully with the myriad human challenges that employees and other stakeholders face. The same goes for organizations involved in developing, manufacturing, distributing, or administering vaccines and treatments. To meet the moment, we’ve needed managers who can keep things running and support employees — not leaders who give stirring speeches but remain detached from day-to-day operations.

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