Recently, “difficult conversations” was the main topic in not one but two of my business school classes. When you think about an MBA in general management, you probably think about finance, operations, strategy, and many of the leadership skills that we develop in the military. You probably wouldn’t think that difficult conversations would make the topic list. Yet these two classes were possibly the most meaningful that I’ve had during graduate school.
Leaders trust, develop the people around them, and think strategically. Managers administer, rely on control, and focus on the nearer term. When renowned management professor John Kotter made these leader-manager distinctions in the Harvard Business Review over 20 years ago, he didn’t advocate for one side over the other. Instead, he called for balance, writing that “the real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.”