• “Those who row the boat have no time to rock it, but those who rock the boat have no time to row it.”Orrin Woodward

Harry Parker was another of that rare breed of Leadager who lived both rocking and rowing. He both led (energetically and ambitiously striving for victory) and managed (carefully guarded the downside of losing a budding talent or creating a bad experience). Reflecting on Harry’s departure had me thumbing through my old notes on the Leadership/Manager distinction.

I found one by one of my favourite speakers, Marcus Buckingham. In his most prominent book, ‘First Break All The Rules’ he specifically draws the distinctions between Leaders and Managers in a section titled ‘Managers are not just Leader-in-Waiting’…

  • “The difference between a manager and a leader is much more profound than most people think. The company that overlooks this difference will suffer for it. The most important difference between a great manager and a great leader is one of focus. Great managers look inward…Great leaders, by contrast, look outward…Great managers are no miniexectuvies waiting for leadership to be thrust upon the, Great leaders are not simply managers who have developed sophistication. The core activities of a manager and leader are simply different. It is entirely possible for a person to be a brilliant manager and a terrible leader. But it is just as possible for a person to excel as a leader and fail as a manager. And, of course, a few exceptionally talented individuals will excel at both.”

I don’t concur with his outward (Leader) vs. inward (Manager) model as I advocate an upside (Leader) vs. downside (Manager) model of focus. Great Managers will be well focused on the external market and conditions and take active measures to thwart the hazards that lie in front of an organisation. Perhaps it is a semantic twist, but in the video interview above, he actually provides a different answer about the difference saying “Leaders focus on what is universal, Managers focus on what is unique.”

I do concur with Buckingham’s assessment that the two are different, and the difference comes down to focus. And I applaud his recognition of the important of Management as he dismisses several denigrating myths about them. And I concur that “exceptionally talented individuals” can excel at both, but I would say, not a just a ‘few’, but ‘very few’ rare talents, like Harry Parker who rocks as well as he rows.

Leaders rock the boat; Managers row the boat.  Both together go farthest.