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Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of[…]

Tom Stewart says there is poetry in both management and leadership.

Question: What is the difference between management and leadership?

Tom Stewart: I don’t.  I mean there is …  There is a common differentiation that, you know, leadership is the
… is the “why” and the “where”, and management is the “how” and is sort of a lower … a lower arc.  But I actually think it’s a distinction without a difference.  In an important kind of way, I think there is an element that, you know, bosses – senior people – have that is a leadership element.  And we’ve gotta decide where we’re gonna go and what this is all about.  And we’ve gotta try to make meaning and make sense of things in sort of an inspirational role.  That role doesn’t necessarily have to be held by somebody who’s the chief person in the hierarchy, too.  The leader … there’s … that leadership role can be taken by anybody at any time.  So there is that part of being a leader, but there’s also the …  When I think of …  In this leadership/management distinction, management becomes a lesser art.  You know it’s “leadership is poetry and management is prose.”  I … I think there’s a lot of poetry in the prose.  When I think about it – and this is something that I’ve only come to recently but it motivates me strongly – is this idea that you spend … we spend … people who work in organizations spend … at least a third of their waking hours at work.  They get most of their training and education after school – after they leave school – happens at work.  They, you know, their relationship to their workplace is the most important workplace … relationship that they have except for that to their families.  And in some cases it’s more important.  So there’s a moral dimension to this.  The decisions that managers make about whom to promote or whom not to promote, or the decisions the – the seemingly little decisions managers make about how to … whether to treat people rudely or kindly are … are decision with kind of large moral consequences for the … for themselves and for the individuals around them.  And so I …  I really think it’s a false distinction.  I think that … that … that in this prose of management, there is some pretty important stuff.

Recorded on: 6/22/07   

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