There is a giant, rather colossal, issue in today’s workplace: the belief that leadership and management are mutually exclusive.  

Hierarchy in the workplace, and the thus inherent creation of “managers” was established for a multitude of reasons, the foremost being: to get things done. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the concept of a “manager”, many studies have even been done on whether managers are necessary in the workplace. In fact, in 2008 Google, a 1.2-billion-dollar company who lives by the motto of never “falling too in love” with the way things are done within their company, put the million-dollar question: “do managers really matter,” to the test.  

Named “Project Oxygen,” Google began multi-yearlong study consisting of feedback, surveys, training and rewards. The result? Managers are absolutely necessary, but they must possess certain characteristics to make them necessary; simply having the job title of “manager” is not one of these characteristics. While Google produced ten different qualities that define a good manager, these ten qualities work to embody the characteristics of a leader.  

So what defines a leader, you might ask? In the workplace, It all comes down to accountability and blame. 

Leaders create accountability in the way that view the workplace: an ecosystem. They recognize that they are fully responsible for the way that their ecosystem functions; for the problems, the success, and everything in between. They recognize that, generally, there is not one person to blame for mishaps, or to praise for triumph as they understand that everyone is a cause in the matter. When a problem arises, they have mastered the art of asking questions, like, “well, what do you think?” 

Managers, however, create blame in the way they view the workplace: a machine. When a problem arises at work, managers identify and thus blame the problem in the system; whether that be a procedure or a person. They then fix the problem by means of getting rid of that problem or procedure. They take a command approach, in that when something goes wrong, they simply provide one strict solution fix the issue at hand.  

The difference between the way these two entities, the ecosystem and the machine, function is made clear in the way they are fueled. While managers fuel their team by blame, leaders fuel their team by accountability. 

The result?  

Well, the entity fueled by accountability is bound to be more successful.  In asking their team questions like, “well what would you do in this situation?” they are empowering their team, and displaying to their team that they too, are a part of the success, or the downfall of the company. Leaders paint the bigger picture and allow their team to understand that they too have a paintbrush that will either add or take away from the beauty of it. This creates a cycle of action: leaders create leaders. 

However, when it comes to the manager who simply delegates tasks out in a command-and-control fashion, they are demeaning their team; blinding them from seeing the bigger picture. Teams then wait on their managers to give them tasks, or to provide solutions for problems. This creates a cycle of inaction: managers create followers.  

It is not that managers should start allowing their team to do what they want when they want to, but they should behave as leaders; laying out the principles of their business and allowing their team to act within that framework.