As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been worried about Harvard Business Review for quite some time. In addition to the fact that the brain-trust seems to have gone brain-dead, the editorial staff seems to have taken permanent leave, and the rest of the organization seems to be suffering from an apocalyptic dearth of dictionaries.
Case in point: In choosing to run this — “Managing a Team That’s Been Asked to Do Too Much” — someone (or everyone) at HBR conspicuously neglected to distinguish between these fairly common terms in the business taxonomy: management and leadership. As a result, we have this:
As a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that unreasonable targets don’t unleash harmful behaviors on your team … When those above you fail in their leadership obligations, the responsibility falls to you … If you receive a target for your team that you believe is unattainable, it’s your responsibility to share your concerns.
Stop right there. Could we take a moment to ask the questions and make the comments that might have occurred to the editors, were they not on an extended … uh cetacean research project (yeah, that’s it) in the Vava’u Islands of Tonga? Thank you.
Let’s start here:
- As a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that unreasonable targets don’t unleash harmful behaviors on your team. If you’re a manager, why isn’t it the responsibility of your leadership to ensure you’re not give unreasonable targets?
- When those above you fail in their leadership obligations, the responsibility falls to you. Are managers responsible for giving leaders hall passes or get-out-of-jail-free cards? Leaders who put their managers on untenable hooks aren’t leaders. They’re charlatans at best, grifters as worst.
- If you receive a target for your team that you believe is unattainable, it’s your responsibility to share your concerns. This is where the difference between management and leadership becomes most crucial. If the target for your team is unattainable, you’re likely working for a charlatan or a grifter. Either way, if you share your concerns, you’ll be on the fast track to the unemployment line. So, you have two choices: (1) If you’re a manager, you manage yourself out of that company and into another one. (2) If you’re a leader, you start your own company, hire the members of your former team, and give them reasonable objectives.
Since the missive excerpted here is online, mayhap the editors will give it a once-over when they get back from their
boondoggle research project and correct the logical errors, if not the definitional ones. (Don’t get your hopes up.) If not, and as a rule of thumb, we’ll do well to heed the words of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, as immortalized by Marvin Gaye:
People say believe half of what you see,
Son, and none of what you hear.
In the meantime, take heed: That sucking sound you hear is the leadership vortex. It seems to have taken Harvard Business Review down with it.