The difference between management and leadership used to be very easy to delineate. Alan Murray, the author of The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management: Lasting Lessons from the Best Leadership Minds of Our Time, writes that “The managers job was to plan, organize, and coordinate. The leaders job was to motivate and inspire.” Managers managed resources through edict or memorandum to a metric or a set of metrics, leaders led resources through inspiration to achieving an outcome or a goal. Some Agencies would go so far as to bestow titles on both their managers and their leaders, while others opted for a less structured organization.
In today’s world leadership and management have lost some of that separation. Murray contends that, “People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.” I can’t help but agree with him based on just the past 5 years of seeing freshly minted providers come into the field with less preparation as those who came in before them, and even the providers 10 years back really weren’t coming in too prepared.
When writing this post I originally titled it “Leadership vs. Management“. After drafting it, pondering, and editing I decided to change the title. Leadership and Management are not in opposition to one another. A leader does not necessarily have to be a manager and, similarly, being a manager does not automatically make you a leader. To be truly successful in this day and age you do need to have skills from both toolboxes.
What remains dangerous is the assumption that because someone is good at one, that they would automatically be good at the other. A good manager is not necessarily a good leader, and a good leader does not necessarily make a good manager. Making this assumption in terms of the food service industry, a good server does not necessarily make a good chef, and a good chef does not necessarily make a good server. While they both work in the food service industry, their roles in a restaurant are quite a bit different.
This is an assumption we often make in EMS. We think that a good provider who can manage an airway will make a good supervisor. We promote them, give them some basic instruction, and then wonder why they don’t know everything there is to managing people. We forget that they’ve had plenty of practice in the classroom managing airways to meet the standard of a model airway. When they got to the field they were able to manage the airway. Granted, that first, second, and probably third managed airway may not have been the prettiest airway, but they managed it, learned from it, and improved upon it. Each improvement brought them to the point where they were able to match the model of a managed airway that was already presented to them. If we just judged their ability to manage airways by that first and second airway, we’d be wondering why they don’t know everything there is about managing airways.
As the differences between managers and leaders shrinks we need to be able to marry the two. While it may not be pretty the first few times, we need to believe in those who have been selected to lead AND manage others. More importantly is that we must give them a model to strive for and set the example for them at every chance we get.
If the providers have been coming out ill prepared for the reality of working in the Emergency Medical Services, then we need to make sure their Manager/Leader is prepared to help them succeed. The failure of one results in a failure, at some level, of all.