One recurring theme in my examination of ‘Leaders’ versus ‘Managers’ is the tendency of many to extol ‘Leadership’ but talk down ‘Management’ as some sort of inferior leader type. Somehow over the years ‘Management’ has taken on some negative connotations while ‘Leadership’ remains virtuous and aspirational. It will be interesting to see how those perceptions attitudes shift in the coming months and years of the dramatic financial and economic downturn.
The ‘Leader’ bias is fostered through an optimism, hope and preference for upside. So much so in recent years, that everyone – not just ‘those greedy bankers’ – pretty much turned a blind eye to the downsides. The banks were willing to lend, the buyers were willing to borrow, the insurers were willing to cover, the politicians were willing to overlook. No one was saying, ‘Wait here, what about the downside risks?’
You can’t turn on the television without seeing an explosion of graphs going steeply down, but one of the best descriptions of the overall ups and downs was brought to my attention by friend and colleague Steve Clayton in his post yesterday ‘The Economic Situation Explained’ which featured the Sequoia Capital presentation that the slide above was taken from. The presentation’s first half illustrates the up, up, up of the past years, but then it follows it with the downs, downs, downs of the present.
As people’s greed for upside is given a big dose of reality and an appreciation of simply preserving what one has starts to become a challenge in it own right, I wonder whether ‘Management’ (‘Managers minimise downside risk’) will start to assume a new cachet. Maybe at the end of it all, there will be a more even appreciation of the need to balance both Leadership and Management.