Tom Peters writes:
It is sometimes said that the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ is ‘doing things right’ versus ‘doing the right thing.’ I think that’s nuts. In fact, let’s assume there is a ‘doing things right’ and a ‘doing the right thing.’ Well, both are of equal importance, and if anything ‘doing things right’ takes precedence. Another way to put it is that having an ‘excellent strategy’ is approximately worthless unless execution is equally ‘excellent.’ Far more things fail to come to fruition because of lousy execution than because of lousy strategy. (‘Execution is strategy’ is the way a boss of mine, Fred Malek, put it waaaaaay back in the 1970s.) Hence my ‘take no prisoners’ ‘bottom line’ is that ‘doing things right’ is as much a part of effective leadership as ‘doing the right thing.’
The first time I saw the famous quote (“the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ is ‘doing things right’ versus ‘doing the right thing”) I loved it. I felt it was a simple enough expression of the difference between the everyday life and the faraway vision. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that Tom is absoultly right. It is nuts. It embodies the underlining assumption that managers are cogs that only follow rules. We know that is far from true. Great managers sometimes defy the rules. They defy conventional wisdoms all the time. Managers and leaders are different, but both of them need to do the right things and do them right.