Charles Handy

Think about this: Any organization whose key assets are talented or skilled people — universities, theaters, law firms, churches — don’t use the word manager to describe the people in charge. They call them deans, senior partners, bishops, directors, or team leaders. [In those organizations,] the title of manager is only used for those who are in charge of things, not people, that is, the physical or inanimate parts of the organization: the transport, the information systems, the building. Instinctively these organizations recognize that people don’t like to be “managed,” and they avoid the word wherever possible. The word implies that you are a resource, something that is controlled by others, a thing to be used and deployed as others see fit.


Organizations do need to be organized. The flow of work needs to be compartmentalized and people need to know what they are required to do, by when, and to what standard; but that is managing the work, not the individuals. The difference is crucial. If I know what I am meant to be doing and I believe it to be either useful or necessary, I will do it without someone looking over my shoulder.


I call that leadership: creating the conditions for good work, choosing the right people and setting them standards of achievement that they can understand, and rewarding them when they meet them. You may say that I am just playing with words — but words describe the world, even the local world of the organization. I now believe that work needs to be organized, that things should be managed, but that people can only be encouraged, inspired, and led. (By things, I mean the buildings, information systems, or anything else physical.)

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