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Leadership AND Management: Two Necessary Talents

Management Track

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Recent scholarship and over a decade of management down-sizing have emphasized the value of leadership over management. This prioritization has produced profound detrimental effects on many organizations. Most of the consequences are not fully realized by senior leadership, but are felt by so many “flattened” organizations’ employees as chaos, disorder, confusion and/or turmoil within the workplace.
Leadership has recently been granted the premier role at the expense of management. Leadership is necessary, but so is management. Some argue that leadership is management, but my contention is that the two talents are distinct and separate. One individual may possess both talents, but the two aren’t interchangeable in daily practice.
Leadership is vision articulation, organization vectoring, business environment recognition, etc. Management is knowing the workforce and orchestrating the production objectives; to whit, management is structuring the personnel and positioning the equipment to achieve the leaders’ goals. Management also involves daily recognition of human resource requirements… who will cry upon hearing the latest decree from leadership… who needs training, at what point in time, to positively advance the leader’s vision… who will need to be repositioned on the team to propel it forward… … … Management is emotional, philosophical, and physical support; all things typically overlooked by leadership on the way to grander visions.
Drawing primarily on Air Force experience, with readings and anecdotal data-points from outside DoD, this look at management and leadership focuses on the need for both. One can see the lack of management talent manifested in high turn-over rates and general discomfort of the workforce. As organizations have “flattened,” loyalty has diminished and folks have become disheartened. I think few correctly attribute this malaise to the loss of good management – bad management can be worse than none. People need management, just as they need leadership. These two talents operate on the mission and people of an organization differently, but no less vitally.
Leadership and management are not completely, mutually exclusive; but they most certainly are not synonymous or interchangeable talents. Nor can one be ignored at the expense of the other. It takes both leadership and management to make an organization function – good to excellent leadership and management to make it flourish.


David Peeler
Lt Col David Peeler serves as Chief of Budget Operations for Air Force Materiel Command. He is responsible for the command’s $3.5B Operations and Maintenance budget, supporting three Air Logistics Centers, three Product Centers, the Air Force Research Labs, Nuclear Warfare Center, and ten Air Base Wings. He oversees accounting for approximately 40% of the Air Force budget, $56B in Command appropriated and revolving funds, as well as Air Force-wide Central Asset Management accounts. He has worked in all comptroller functional areas, as well as two brief stints as a program manager. Peeler holds a Master degree in Cost Analysis from the Air Force Institute of Technology and another in Military Operational Art and Science from Air University. His undergraduate degrees are in Mathematics, Economics, and Political Science. He is a SCEA member, and past president of the New England Chapter.