The article by John Kotter entitled, “What Leaders Really Do” is one of the most effective pieces of writing for determining where you stand in terms of your role as a leader or manager of an organization and offers suggestions about what elements of leadership you can further develop to make yourself more beneficial to your organization. As this summary and analysis of “What Leaders Really Do” by John Kotter suggests, one aspect of leadership is to first demystify the differences and similarities between leaders and managers and indicates that leaders are not rare people with exceptional charisma necessarily and that there is no hierarchy that exists where one is more important than the other.
Instead, he states that these two roles should complement one another in their focus and that they are different entities with differing roles in an organization that are interdependent. While many people can play roles as leaders in an organization, it is the duty of management to help guide the group through rough patches and while this involves leadership skills, leading can come from beyond this managerial role from within members of the organization who can be leaders in the sense that they are open to changes and can adapt and help others do the same while management works in terms of organizing and leader work “aligning” people with new directions. Since constant change and evolution are such important parts of the success of an organization, having a balance between the aligning influences of the leaders in the organization and the management-based duties of organization and assistance with stability through the change, is vital. With over-management, the “human” side of the equation is lost, which is just as important as all of the planning, charting, and organization involved on the management side.
Management is about coping with complexity. Its practices and procedures are largely a response to the emergence of large, complex organizations in the twentieth century. Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change. Part of the reason it has become so important in recent years is that the business world has become more competitive and more volatile. More change always demands more leadership. Most U.S. corporations today are over-managed and under-led. They need to develop their capacity to exercise leadership. Successful corporations don’t wait for leaders to come along. They actively seek out people with leadership potential and expose them to career experiences designed to develop that potential. Indeed, with careful selection, nurturing, and encouragement, dozens of people can play important leadership roles in a business organization. But while improving their ability to lead, companies should remember that strong leadership with weak management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.
Near the beginning of the article “What Leaders Really Do”, John Kotter states that most corporations in the United States are “over managed and underlet.” This idea underscores many of the main ideas since, if this assessment is correct, it means that many organizations are not allowing managers and leaders to work together, instead favoring a less suitable arrangement where it is the responsibility of management to handle all of the tasks of organization and aligning people. Interestingly, not only does Kotter point out that one is not better than the other (management versus leadership) but that without the equal input and contributions of both sides, change, which is an important and vital element of any organization, is not as accepted as the managers are not able to manage the “human” side of the equation in addition to their organizational duties. Related to this is the important idea that many people in the organization can assume leadership roles and in fact, by having more than one official leadership position, change can be more readily accepted and implemented.
Widely acknowledged as the world’s foremost authority on leadership, John Kotter has devoted his remarkable career to studying organizations and those who run them, and his bestselling books and essays have guided and inspired leaders at all levels. Here, in this collection of his acclaimed Harvard Business Review articles, is an astute assessment of the real work of leaders, as only John Kotter can offer. To complement the HBR articles, Kotter also contributes a new piece, a thoughtful reflection on the themes that have developed throughout his work. Convinced that most organizations today lack the leadership they need, Kotter’s mission is to help us better understand what leaders–real leaders–do. True leadership, he reminds us, is an elusive quality, and too often we confuse management duties and personal style with leadership, or even mistake unworthy leaders for the real thing. Yet without leadership, organizations move too slowly, stagnate, and lose their way. With John Kotter on What Leaders Really Do, readers will learn how to become more effective leaders as they explore pressing issues such as power, influence, dependence, and strategies for change.
The action plan of Characteristic activities for what leaders are really do are as follows
· Deciding what needs to be done
· Creating Networks of People and relationships that can accomplish an agenda.
· Trying to ensure that the people actually do the job.
The actions for the above steps are as follows
1. Setting a direction
· Developing a vision of the future (often the distant future).
· Developing strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision.
· Gathering and analysing a broad range of data and look for patterns, relationships and linkages that help explain things.
· Creating vision and strategies that describe a business, technology, or corporate culture in terms of what it should become over the long term. Effective business visions regularly have an almost mundane quality, usually consisting of ideas that are already well known. What is crucial about a vision is how well it serves the interests of important constituencies – customers, shareholders, employees – and how easily it can be translated into a realistic competitive strategy.
2. Aligning people
· Communicating the new direction to those who can create coalitions that understand the vision and are committed to its achievement.
· Communicating with anyone who can help implement the vision and strategies or who can block implementation.
· Getting people to comprehend a vision of an alternative future.
· Having the credibility to get people to believe the message. Depends upon:
o Track record of the messenger
o Content of the message
o Communicators reputation for integrity and trustworthiness
o Consistency between words and deeds
· Aligning leads to empowerment and empowerment works because:
o When a clear sense of direction has been communicated throughout an organisation, lower level employees can initiate actions without the same degree of vulnerability.
o Everyone is aiming at the same target.
3. Motivating and inspiring
· Keeping people moving in the right direction despite major obstacles to change, by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values, and emotions.
· Generating highly energised behaviour to cope with the inevitable barriers to change because achieving grand visions always requires a burst of energy.
· Works by satisfying basic human needs for:
o A sense of belonging
o Self esteem
o A feeling of control over one’s life
o Ability to live up to ones ideals
· Making the work important to individuals by articulating the vision in a manner that stresses the values of the audience.
· Regularly involving people in deciding how to achieve the vision.
· Supporting employee efforts to realise the vision by providing coaching, feedback, and role modelling, thereby helping people grow professionally and enhancing their self-esteem.
· Recognising and rewarding success.
If this is the case as Kotter suggests in “What Leaders Really Do” then there is no “over-management” because they are committed simply to organization and the more general implementation of coming changes on a technical level while the other side of change; acceptance of it and the moving forward end, can be left to those in the organization who are leaders and can assist others through the time of evolution. This is certainly a different version of management and leadership than one encounter in many theories because it excludes management’s roles in some arenas by shifting the responsibility of certain duties to those in the organization who may not hold official titles, but who demonstrate an ability to accept and assist others with change.