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Manage Stuff. Lead People.

Manage Stuff. Lead People. People are not stuff. They do not need to be managed, only led. The difference is not semantic, but gigantic.

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BY Chuck Blakeman - 30 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

All stuff is stupid and lazy and must be managed. It is an axiom of the second law of thermodynamics. Leave stuff laying around and it will decay and dissipate until it is no longer functioning or useful. When we started factories in the 1700s we understood this. The machines were all stupid and lazy and required intense time and attention to run, maintain, fix, and improve. Without our laser focus, they just sat there and did nothing.

People Become Extensions of Machines

To get the machines to run, we needed people who would run them. Very quickly we began to see the people and the machines as an integrated unit, necessarily inseparable. Without the people, the machine didn't produce. Over time, we began to conflate the two - the person with the machine, and were taught that not just the machine was stupid and lazy, but so were the people.

People Become Stupid and Lazy

In 1911, Fredrick Taylor wrote his seminal paper, Scientific Management, which laid the foundation for all modern management theory. Peter Drucker said, "Taylor had as much impact on the 20th century as Freud, Darwin and Marx". Some of that impact was his tragically flawed definition of the employee:

1) The average employee is "so stupid that he more nearly resembles the ox than any other type."

2) People will are "naturally lazy" and will work only so hard as to not get fired - he called it "soldiering" or "taking it easy"

If people are stupid and lazy just like the machines, how do you fix that? You find the very few smart and motivated people, lord them over the stupid and lazy ones to force them to be productive like slaves, serfs, and underlings, and thus management was born.

Machines don't respond to leadership - they are never inspired by vision, encouragement, recognition, care, listening, respect, support or the other things that leaders do that are so important to us as people. It's all those things that make me so much more productive, not grease.

Management should be reserved for "stuff", and people should always be led. But 125 years of consultants have conflated management of stuff with leadership of people, until we no longer see the simple difference. I have become stuff. Let's pull the two apart again and give them both the very different care they need.

Separating People From Machines Again

Management and leadership have nothing in common. Here's the difference:

Leadership is any act which improves the

life, condition, or performance

of another individual.

Leadership is much broader than the stereotypical general on the horse out front - EVERYONE can lead. The primary attribute of the leader is "servant". Leaders serve others, not themselves. Which brings us to the manager.

Management is the use of

power and authority to command and control others

for the benefit of the manager.

This is why managers have reports and leaders have followers. The primary attribute of the manager is power. I can fire your ass if you don't do what I want, come to my meetings, pretend I'm funny, or if you question the decisions I make that so deeply affect your life and performance at work.

All stuff needs to be managed. It requires power, authority, command and control or it will degenerate and dissipate. I am not stuff. I need you to ask what will improve my life, condition, and or performance, and be the servant who brings those improvements into my workplace. If you treat me like stuff, I will respond like stuff and dissipate. Lead me, improve my life, condition and situation at work, and I'll bring everything to the game.

Stop Managing People. Lead Them.

Play a human's game and humans come to play. Play a machine's game and machines will come to play. If you have people phoning it in as extensions of machines, you might want to do a gut check on whether you're managing them or leading them.

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." Antoine de Saintexupery


"Manage Stuff. Lead People." Are you managing or are you leading?