Manager or Leader?

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I try to keep my knowledge up to date and try to learn new things regularly. One of the things I do to continue developing myself is reading books, blog posts, and newsletters. I noticed in the last years that the word management and also manager is used less and less. Additionally, I have the feeling the words leadership and leader are used more and more. My assumption is backed up by the Ngram Viewer of Google. The use of the words management and manager is indeed decreasing, where the words leadership and leader are increasing.

So should we conclude that we don’t have any managers anymore, just leaders? Management is not done anymore, only leadership?

That is nonsense.

We could say managers are responsible for management. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The definition of management is: “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” Ouch, that sounds evil nowadays. Controlling things or people… If you ask the average attendee of an agile conference his or her opinion about managers or management, you will probably get a disgusting look. Saying you are a manager nowadays is almost the same as saying you are a supporter of the flat-earth community. It is embarrassing. Where I believe that is weird.

Management is necessary, no discussion about it. Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, Chapter Leads, Guild Master, Chief Product Owners, Build Masters, Tribe Leads, etc. are all doing management tasks, and therefore could also be called managers. They are all fulltime manager. The management style is no longer based on command and control; it is modern management. And, as you probably know, I believe management is the responsibility of everyone.

We also need leaders. Leadership is necessary, no discussion about it. Leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. It is about going being the first one. It is about giving, showing the right behavior. It is about inspiring people. Everyone in an organization can be a leader. You can, for example, show leadership in your team. A Product Owner can show leadership on her product. I believe that being a leader is not a fulltime job. I don’t know many people who are continuously leading other people. Or people who are 40 hours in the week inspiring people. I believe leadership is a part-time role. As management is the responsibility of everyone, leadership is also the responsibility of everyone.

So if management and leaders are necessary, why do we see a decrease in the word managers? Why do I have the feeling many people-formerly-known-as-manager call themselves nowadays a leader? I think it is just about being hip; being a leader sounds much more attractive today. We associate management often with command and control, and therefore, we don’t like the word anymore. It became something negative with the rise of agile. I believe many of the people-known-as-leader nowadays are, in fact, a manager. As a manager also showing leadership. I think they spend most of the time helping people, setting boundaries, helping the organization to have a vision, removing impediments. These are all management tasks. Besides these management tasks, they also inspire people, lead by example, etc. Taking and showing leadership behavior.

Is this wrong? Nope, but maybe we should not be too paranoid about the word manager, and sometimes just call things what they are: managers who show leadership and don’t inflate the word leadership as we do with agile.

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