Warren Benis: Over-managed, Under-led

The issue of leadership and management has attracted many of our greatest minds who have come to a vareity of conclusions on the nature of these two tasks.

Warren Bennis clearly maps out his position on leading and managing. If you click here, you can see an article where Bennis provides some of the differences between management and leadership.

Warren Bennis quote, failing organizations over-managed under-led


It is not that Bennis is against management - not at all. It is just that Bennis knows that leadership is another set of skills that is vital for organizations to grow and thrive. 

Bennis also knows that over-management is a tendency for organizations that are beginning to "stall out" and it is certainly true for organizations that are in decline. It is part of the "almost inevitable" trends that organizations will experience as they move through their life cycle. Once over-management is entrenched, vital leadership is increasingly necessary but challenging.

Overmanagement does not start when bureaucracy has finally become stifling. The over-management begins long before that. Late Prime (see the chart) is when over-management is already the way things are being done. In reality, it has probably materialized while the organization is in its Prime. It is just that while in its Prime, things are still going very well for the organization.

But the "under-leading" and the "over-managing" means the original visionary energy that was needed for greatness has given way to managing the system.

Warren Bennis, On becoming a leaderHere is the Book
On Becoming a Leader

This is one of my favorite Bennis books, although every time I ransack through one of the many books of his that I have read, I think - oh, this is one of my favorite Bennis books. It turns out that which ever book I am reading at the moment - it is probably my favorite Bennis book.

The book has a very simple thesis. Leaders are BORN, they are not Made. Bennis has ten lively chapters where he maps out ten things leaders must do and how they learn to do those leadership functions.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International