Sunday, May 19, 2013 | Home› Articles
The Management & Leadership Conundrum
What is better for the organisation – for you to be a Manager or a Leader? Whenever this question has been posed in the multitude of workshops conducted by Louis Allen International, the response has been, overwhelmingly, in favour of “Leader”. We are obsessed with the idea of “being a leader and practicing leadership” being the best way to move ahead in an organisation.
This idea – of the leader being someone requiring special qualities – is being incessantly promoted by those, and they are legion, who subscribe to the notion. It is this false concept that has gained currency, thanks to their efforts. While the intention may to be to increase the “performing power” of the individual to whom this Gospel is being preached, its effect, more often than not, makes them less able to achieve their purpose. By shining the spotlight on a single person, leadership becomes part of the syndrome of individuality that is sweeping our world and undermines the team and the overall organisation.
The debate about whether managers and leaders are different has been going on since the late 1970’s. While some have assumed that leadership is better than management others take it to be the replacement for management.
John P Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, proposes that, while management and leadership are different, they complement each other; that in our changing world, one cannot function without the other. Managers, he says, promote stability while leaders press for change. Only individuals that embrace both will succeed in an, increasingly, complex and turbulent and changing world.
The challenge one faces is to combine strong leadership and strong management in the same person, and use one to balance the other. Once the differences between the two sets of skills are understood, the task will be to develop people to provide both in an integrated manner. The two different functions – coping with complexity and coping with change, shape the activities of management and leadership.
Complexity is managed, first, by Planning – setting targets and goals for the future, establishing the detailed steps for achieving those targets and then allocating the resources to achieve the plans. In contrast, leadership for change begins by setting a direction – developing a vision for the future, Missions that will bring about the reality and the strategies to achieve it.
As the next step, Management develops the capacity to achieve the plan by Organising – developing the workflow processes, creating the organisation structure and assigning roles and responsibilities for accomplishing the objectives. The equivalent leadership activity is selecting the right people for the jobs, delegating specific responsibilities to them, communicating the plan to these people, developing in them the skills required to complete the tasks and aligning peoples goals with those of the organisation. This means communicating the new direction to key people who understand the Vision, are committed to its achievement and can create the coalitions to support its achievement.
Finally, management ensures accomplishment of the plan by Controlling – monitoring actual results those that were planned; identifying deviations; and then taking corrective actions in a planned manner to solve any identified deviations from the desired results. To achieve the vision, leadership involves decision making and problem solving, motivating and inspiring – keeping people moving in the right direction, despite major obstacles to change, by appealing to human needs, values and emotions.
It is abundantly clear that the manager’s achievements are instrumental in ensuring that the leader’s vision becomes a reality; that, in effect, the manager’s goals and objectives are the stepping-stones to bringing about the realisation of the vision over the period of the Vision. It is also seen that unless the functions of Planning, Organising and Controlling work in tandem with the function of Leading (or Leadership), goals will be accomplished more by chance, and less as a result of coordinated efforts.
Yet, the debate on leadership versus management never seems to cease nor get resolved. The reason for this is simple. There is no need to resolve this issue, or get involved in it, as there should not be a debate in the first place. A manager who cannot lead will eventually run out of steam, while a leader who does not spend adequate time and effort on the activities of planning, organising and controlling, will ultimately run out of control and stop being functional.
The two concepts of leadership and management are so intertwined that any attempt to separate the two is a self-defeating attempt, and a futile endeavour. If the aim is to make the organisation succeed, there should not be any separation between them. They are, and must be seen to be, necessarily, complementary.
In the Allen Management System (AMS) prescribed by Louis Allen International, we recognise that separating leadership from management is part of the problem most managers face. Does anyone want to work for a “manager” who does not have the right qualities of “leadership”? Such managers, often, are quite discouraging in the way they manage. What about a “leader” who doesn’t practice “management”? That can be pretty demotivating, too; such a person is quite removed from reality and unlikely to be in the know of what is happening – by way of efforts being put in, or the results being achieved, by the team.
Hence, the focus of the AMS is to produce individuals who are clear on their role as Manager-Leader and practice management as a well-integrated system, using the functions of Planning, Organising and Controlling, with Leading (or, Leadership) acting as the “glue” to keep it all together. This results in objectives being achieved through team effort with appropriate management-leadership being applied.
The goal of conscious management leaders, through the application of a systematic management practice, is to build strong organisations of qualified people who are committed and capable of achieving a shared purpose. Conscious managers – those who combine management and leadership – more effectively, balance the, sometimes, conflicting needs of customers, employees, shareholders or owners, community, and regulators. These multiple roles bring a host of opposing forces into play that conscious managers are better able to deal with.
Conscious managers tend to:
- Consciously select the style or approach appropriate for the situation
- Continuously give priority to management efforts
- Redirect their management work towards broader issues
- Provide for greater decentralisation of work, resources, information, and authority
- Avoid staying stuck in “unconscious competence” or autopilot behaviors
There is no doubt that leadership matters. And that it makes a difference. But the “leader in the spotlight”, often, takes, or, is given the credit for successful achievements at the expense of the team that achieved that success. The net effect of such recognition is a de-motivated team. Where leadership does make a difference is in the kind of leadership practiced. Is it the kind that gives rise to visions of knights riding in on white chargers? Or, the sort that adapts to the need of the situation and acts appropriately. In other words, provides just enough of the right kind of leadership. It is the second one that makes the difference.
The world has been taken over by a new aristocracy – of leaders, of the Knights on White chargers variety, who believe they are a re-incarnation of Sir Galahad, who are completely disconnected from what leadership is supposed to be all about and the teams they lead, resulting in dysfunctional teams at every level in organisations. It is time for smart organisations to put some plain, ordinary Manager–Leaders in charge, then sit back and watch the achievements accumulate!
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