Management Is An Authority Relationship

April 25, 2011

I love Joseph Rost’s idea that “leadership is an influence relationship between leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their shared purpose.” Given that this is leadership, what is management? According to Rost:

Management is an authority relationship between at least one manager and one subordinate who coordinate their activities to produce and sell particular goods and/or services. (p. 145).

The behaviors of managers make no sense without the corresponding behaviors of subordinates; thus, similar to leadership, management is also a relationship. Management is not the position that either the boss or subordinate occupy; rather, management is the activity of coordination that arises from the relationship. I like that because it suggests that the quality of management is dependent upon everyone accepting and sharing accountability.

Good management produces good coordination and efficient operations only because of good relationships. Bad management produces waste and chaos because of bad relationships.

In both cases – good and bad management – all parties in the relationship are mutually responsible for the results. Good management can’t fix bad leadership, but good leadership – influence, purpose, and real change – is the only way to repair bad management.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (6)

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  1. I agree. Great post. Management gives a person a title and subordinates, but it does not give them the ability to do a good job. They have to be good at either managing or managing and leading to do a good job. The subordinates will generally follow the lead of said individual, good or bad.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Very well said, Peter. Thanks! Bret

  2. Jim Taggart says:

    One simple way to put it, Bret, is that managers are appointed to their positions. In contrast, those who want to become leaders must earn a followership. No followership, no leadership. So I would agree with the “authority” aspect when one faces a workplace situation in which a manager invokes his or her power relationship over a subordinate to get a task done. However, when it comes to sparking creativity and innovation through self-empowerment, the management hand requires the leadership hand as a complement. Those who have best expressed the right-hand, left-hand relationship between management and leadership include Drucker, Kotter and Mintzberg.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks for adding this, Jim. I know a lot of people don’t like making any distinction between the functions of management and leadership, but I’ve always found it helpful. If it was good enough for Drucker and Mintzberg, it works for me. Thanks! Bret

  3. Cole Voors says:

    Interesting thought Bret, it seems management relationships are definetly a product of the leader/follower relationship that underlies them…real change comes by fixing the base of the relationship pyramid through leading, not managing

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Cole! No change without leadership, that’s for sure. Thanks, Bret