Leaders versus Managers – I think not!

Leadership versus Management?

On a LinkedIn Group that will be better not named, I saw the following subject suggested for a blog post.

“Leadership vs. Management: Highlights the differences between the task orientation of managers and the inspirational orientation of leaders.”

Now I know what they mean, but I thought how sad! Is one really to be set against the other and is there the difference in value implied?

Yes, at its core, leadership is about creating a vision for the organization and inspiring people to march out into the world to achieve it.

Leadership has fascinated people for many hundreds of years.

As soon as we could organise ourselves into groups we needed a leader. Someone had to decide in which direction to go for the hunt – democracy doesn’t appear to be in-built!

By the time of Plato and Socrates, the qualities required for leadership had become something of an obsession.

Leadership depends on a process of influence through which people are “inspired” to work towards common goals.

So the leader has the vision and inspires us to work together towards something.

So what of management?

Well management too has been around for millennia – try Sun Tzu’s The Art of War written in the 6th Century BC.

Management gets the job done – it gets us safely to our destination.

Management takes the vision and turns it into a blueprint – something we can create and a real vibrant destination. Management plans, organizes and resources!  It creates and nurtures the team for the journey.   Management ensures that what is delivered is of the right quality and that we get to our destination intact.

The verb manage comes from the Italian maneggiare (to handle — especially tools), which in turn derives from the Latin manus (hand). The number managed (handled) can range from one person in a small firm to hundreds of thousands in a multinational company.

Managers are artists and craftspeople creating with the most volatile material known, the human spirit.

So next time you think about the task orientation of managers and the “inspirational” orientation of leaders remember this.  A president of the United States had the vision that man would go to the moon but it was managers, lots and lots of talented managers, that got us there.

A question!

In my view, managers and leaders need each other.  They should not in some way be set against each other. In my experience excellent managers are as scarce as excellent leaders in this world.

Well that is my view, but what do you think?

Wendy Mason works as a Coach, Consultant and Writer. 

She works with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;

  • looking for work
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • facing redundancy
  • moving into retirement
  • wanting to do a mid-life review

You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com  or ring ++44 (0)2084610114

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Becoming a Leader Today – What is Leadership?

Genentech at San Francisco Pride Parade

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” Alan Keith, Genentech

“Leaders sell the tickets for the journey” Anon

I believe leadership is influencing a group of people to achieve a common goal.

But if you ask a group to define leadership, you will probably get as many different answers as there are people in the group. And most of those answers will probably be about what a leader does, not about what leadership, itself, is.

Conventionally leaders take charge of groups, be that group a large corporation, a country or a small team charged with delivering a project. Until quite recently, there has usually been little or no distinction between leadership and management.

But leadership is not about managing people.

Leaders promote new directions! Leaders sell tickets, but managers drive the bus!

Traditionally, leadership has been based on power; military, economic, religious etc. Occasionally leadership has been based on the power of personality to dominate a group. But there has usually been some loss of free will.

In this modern knowledge-based world, this traditional approach seems less and less appropriate. Richard Florida‘s book, “The Rise of the Creative Class” argues that in the modern world, more and more work requires creative thinking. So the leader becomes the one who generates a creative idea that can be delivered in a convincing vision for the organization.

In this knowledge based economy, the idea that leadership comes from someone who just happens to sit at the top of the organization chart becomes redundant. A new direction can emerge from any point in the organization where critical knowledge can be combined with creativity to generate an influential vision for the future.

So, the leader becomes a facilitator who can create conditions in which new visions can be generated and developed.

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The Leader with human flaws!

"Skeleton of human (1) and gorilla (2), u...
You are a human being!

Fact: nobody gets everything right 100% of the time!

So you are the leader! And thank goodness you are a human being too.  You can feel, you can relate and, guess what, sometimes, just sometimes, you can get it wrong.

Now because you are a leader many of your decisions have potential to resonate throughout the organization.  If you don’t have the insight to put the right arrangements in place, one bad decision can put the whole organization at risk.

But if you have the right governance arrangements in place, no single decision you make should be able cripple the organization or put your staff or customers at serious risk.

But it is up to you to put that governance in place!

If you do it well, it will not result in needless bureaucracy; nor will it erode your accountability for the decisions you need to take.  The right approach should free you up and allow you to be entrepreneurial, without undue risk.

But I believe putting governance arrangement in place is an art form – make sure you are well advised and that those in your governance structure are carefully chosen.

Then remember the old 80/20 rule – the Pareto Principle.   For entrepreneurs and business leaders this usually means:

  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff

Make sure you stay clearly focused on the most significant areas of your organization – the 20% that really counts..  Find the key 20% and hone your decisions in those areas to perfection.

Then, with good governance and clear focus you will ensure that your organization doesn’t suffer a fatal fall as a result of a poor decision from you.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

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