In the intro, he argues the case for management to be reinstated as an equal partner with what he sees as the over-hyped notion of leadership in organizations. Amen to that.
This is a refreshing change from those who, like Warren Bennis, see leading and managing as separate and distinct roles - with the former seemingly inhabiting a somewhat higher and more praiseworthy plane than the latter:
"I tend to think of the differences between leaders and managers as the differences between those who master the context and those who surrender to it."
In contrast, Mintzberg defines leadership as "management practiced well".
This is a phrase which rightly blends together those dimensions of the manager's task that others, such as Bennis, seek to prise apart. As I said in Informal Coalitions, organizations that fail to manage their affairs competently can't be considered to be well led simply because they 'tick the boxes' in terms of inspiration, innovation, vision and the like. Enron and Lehman Brothers are recent high-profile cases in point.
Mintzberg's definition also underscores the point that leadership emerges through practice. And, as such it takes place throughout an organization, not merely in its upper echelons.
Mission and meaning
An organization exists for a purpose. And delivery of its mission - however defined - is its raison d’être. This is about strategy, organization, co-ordination, operations, and so on. That is, it is the stuff of management.
At the same time, managers achieve these things - or not - through others. To practise them well (i.e. to lead, in Mintzberg's terms), these 'mission-making' tasks need to be delivered in ways that help people to gain personal meaning from them. And it is this 'meaning-making' dimension of the task that transforms ordinary performance into extra-ordinary performance.
In leading organizations, then, mission-making and meaning-making are two sides of the same coin. Most particularly, the latter dimension of the overall task is meaningless without the purpose provided by the former. At the same time, of course, meaning is not something that can be handed down by managers. It emerges from the myriad of conversations and interactions that constitute everyday organizational life. So if managers are to perform their task well, they need to engage, both directly and indirectly, with its hidden, messy and informal dynamics as well as with the formal and structured aspects of their task.