Absurdly Driven usually looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Being a manager isn't sexy, is it?
The very word conjures a sense of keeping things together, getting by and generally making a system work.
Being a leader, on the other hand, now that's the apogee of rockstarism.
Leaders are powerful, admired, interviewed and written about. Even their private lives offer a little more gossip fodder. Who ever cared about the private life of a manager?
Yet, especially at a time when every single business principle is being questioned, is it worth wondering whether leaders should also be, well, competent?
It's a quite wonderful summation of the academic -- and practical -- schism created to describe those who merely manage and those who get on fine white horses to lead.
Petriglieri explains how research has clearly shown the diminished impression of management:
To be a manager is to be useful, but dispensable. It is no protection against anxiety in the workplace. In many such places, in fact, wanting to be a manager is a questionable aspiration if it is one at all. It is like wanting to be a dinosaur in an age where leaders have the disruptive impact of meteorites.
This has caused a skewing that is surely evident in the way so many organizations are run today. Says Petriglieri:
Preach passion above competence, influence above stewardship, and soon you will find much passion for influence and little competent stewardship at the top of corporations and countries.
Too often, leadership becomes a game of self-aggrandizement, power and stock options. More troubling is the fact that the obsession with leadership has led to a sense that you must act like a leader (whatever that means) to succeed or get funded.
And, as business has become far more central to society -- and the news -- than it used to be, we expect to see some sort of magic in leadership.
Somehow, says Petriglieri, we pick leaders in a hurry and managers at our leisure. In each case, we're asking the question What Can You Do For Me?
We're human. We're irrational. Or, as Petriglieri puts it:
We want evidence and excitement, data and dreams.
Yet instead of trying to find all those things in one, we separate the more rational traits from the emotional ones.
Oh, he looks and feels like a leader. Let's pick him.
Petriglieri worries that leaders and managers are now seen as antagonistic, rather than complementary:
Splitting leadership from management and arguing for the superior value of one, in other words, is like asking whether the brain or the heart is most important. Which one would you rather give up?
The truth, says Petriglieri, is that a balance between leadership and management is simply harder to build.
He'd like to see a different sort of organization:
Institutions where we can get along or argue well, passion is held, reasons are heard, and managing and leading abound instead of their caricatures -- the managers and leaders.
And caricatures they have, indeed, become. How many times have you heard: "Oh, he's just a manager. Never going to be a leader."?
How many times do so-called leaders breeze in, make everyone feel good -- for a short while -- and then disappear to their next exalted position?
Which all leads me to Steve Jobs. One of the greatest leaders of our time, so we're told. Surely, then, he'd appoint another great leader to replace him.
Instead, he appointed the ultimate so-called manager, Tim Cook.
Perhaps Jobs appreciated that as his company got bigger and ever more global, certain skills of absolute competence were essential.
It's a vital lesson for today's exceptionally disturbed and fractured world. Fine words and a fine image are not enough.
I've often thought it's more possible for managers to grow into leaders than for leaders to embrace true consequential competence.
How do you think Cook's been as a leader? Remarkably good, as well as remarkably competent, if you ask me.