The chief executive of a major Canadian company complained recently that he can’t get his engineers to think like managers. It’s a common complaint, but behind it lies an uncommonly important question: What does it mean to think like a manager? Sadly, little attention has been paid to that question in recent years. Most of us have become so enamored of “leadership” that “management” has been pushed into the background. Nobody aspires to being a good manager anymore; everybody wants to be a great leader.
But the separation of management from leadership is dangerous. Just as management without leadership encourages an uninspired style, which deadens activities, leadership without management encourages a disconnected style, which promotes hubris. And we all know the destructive power of hubris in organizations. So let’s get back to plain old management.
The problem, of course, is that plain old management is complicated and confusing. Be global, managers are told, and be local. Collaborate, and compete. Change, perpetually, and maintain order. Make the numbers while nurturing your people. How is anyone supposed to reconcile all this? The fact is, no one can. To be effective, managers need to face the juxtapositions in order to arrive at a deep integration of these seemingly contradictory concerns. That means they must focus not only on what they have to accomplish but also on how they have to think. Managers need various “mind-sets.”
Helping managers appreciate that was the challenge we set for ourselves in the mid-1990s when we began to develop a new master’s program for practicing managers. We knew we could not rely on the usual structure of MBA education, which divides the management world into the discrete business functions of marketing, finance, accounting, and so on.
Read more: The Five Minds of a Manager – HBR