Russell Furst: Both Management and Leadership Matter

Are you a manager or a leader? (Hint: This is a trick question—a false dichotomy.)

In recent years, it has become more common for organizations to seek out leaders rather than managers. We typically associate managers (and management) with outdated, overly bureaucratic modes of operation. Leaders (and leadership) usually suggest a more modern and useful approach. The implication seems to be that leadership has somehow supplanted management as a more appropriate, useful, and desired mechanism to operate a company or department.

However, an astute healthcare technology management (HTM) professional will recognize that management and leadership are simply different things—both of which are necessary. One cannot replace the other. In fact, leadership has historically been included as one component of management.

How do we define these terms? Management and leadership have been defined in seemingly innumerable ways, but a synthesis of the academic and professional literature suggests that useful, generally accepted, and broadly applicable definitions are that management is “the process of achieving results through the efforts of others” while leadership is “the act of influencing others to act in ways that they might not do on their own.” Managers are generally those people formally placed within an organization’s operational hierarchy and have positional authority. In contrast, leadership, which is defined here as being based on influence, can be informal and come from anyone.

About a century ago, Frenchman Henri Fayol, widely considered one of the founding fathers of management theory, identified five management functions: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Over the years, many have modified this list into what is known as the “P-O-L-C Framework” which includes: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (in this context, “controlling” refers to the monitoring of outcomes which can be used as part of the feedback loop to correct or improve future activities).

A more recent influential management guru, Henry Mintzberg, identified 10 common managerial roles that he categorized as being related to interpersonal, informational, or decisional functions.  Mintzberg suggested that being a figurehead, leader, or liaison are interpersonal roles.  Informational roles, those that relate to how information is handled, involve being a recipient, disseminator, and spokesperson. Roles that are part of decision making emerge when a manager acts as a negotiator, disturbance handler, resource allocator, or entrepreneur.

There are many other management theories, and I mention Fayol and Mintzberg simply to provide well-known examples that support the thesis that leadership is one component of management.

So, why does this matter?

Those entering the HTM profession typically lack the education or work experience that would expose them to management principles. I suspect that, in most cases, early career development and advancement is also devoid of this focus and knowledge. Because of this, HTM professionals interested in greater supervisory roles and responsibilities within their organization should be specific and proactive in gaining this knowledge through additional formal or informal education.

A solid understanding and application of management principles is likely to result in greater individual success and professional satisfaction, more effectively run departments, happier subordinates, and broader engagement is the business of healthcare.

Russell Furst, BAS, MAL, CHTM, is director of clinical technology assessment and planning for ISS Solutions—Geisinger Health System in Langhorne, PA, and a member of the BI&T Editorial Board

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