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Activity is not the same as progress

Posted by Philip Smith on 7 November 2018

Leadership vs Management

This is an ongoing debate with theories and consultants who want us to believe that an apple can become an orange, if only we attend their next Leadership workshop.

It is a surprisingly simple matter to resolve once we agree on a few basics.

Lets start with two reasonable definitions from the web as a starting point.

Management is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a not-for-profit organization, or government body. Management includes the activities of setting the strategy of an organization and coordinating the efforts of its employees to accomplish its objectives through the application of available resources, such as financial, natural, technological, and human resources. The term "management" may also refer to those people who manage an organization. 

Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to "lead" or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Specialist literature debates various viewpoints, contrasting Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also United States versus European approaches. U.S. academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Leadership seen from a European and non-academic perspective encompasses a view of a leader who can be moved not only by communitarian goals but also by the search for personal power. 

Let us apply a bit of common sense to these definitions to provide a perspective.

When one starts a new business one has to be the manager and leader, but as the business grows one has to make a choice to be one or the other and this is where the wheels start coming off.

We would all like to believe that we are brilliant at both, but research shows that our perceptions are probably not that good. Unskilled and unaware.   

For anybody who has spent some years in business it is no surprise that the best salesman is unlikely to transition to a great sales manager. The skills and temperament required for both jobs are diametrically opposed.  

Some people are born leaders, others must work hard at learning how to become a leader and unfortunately some people will never be good leaders.

Somehow we find it difficult to position ourselves into this same simple conclusion, as we are surely different and definitely smarter than most !

A few years ago I read a research paper where they analysed small trucking companies. They discovered that as the companies grew and expanded some owners started appointing professional managers to run the businesses. After a while some of the owners reclaimed the running of these businesses. In every case where professional managers had been employed and left in place, while the owners articulated the direction the company developed in, the companies expanded and became more successful. In every case where the owners reclaimed the management roles, the business contracted. In every case where the owners never appointed professional managers their companies remained small and on the margin.
Now enters the "Silver Bullet" salesman who will have us believe that anybody can be trained to be a leader and unfortunately too many people believe this hokum. One might well ask what outcomes are being achieved in this quest for superior leadership and management, and for that I would suggest you read this article. to see what the experts in this field has to say.

Clearly there are some effective training organisations in the marketplace, but the good ones will tell you that it requires a huge amount of effort, before and after the training, will cost lots of money and will take time......... there are no silver bullets

This takes us to the heart of the implications, there are too many managers on boards and too many CEO's who believe they are leaders, instead of the chief manager. Most boards are stacked with well qualified people, accountants, lawyers, academics and it is therefore not surprising that too many companies are operated in a complete vacuum of leadership.   

The next cardinal sin is when the CEO and management team rebrand themselves as the "leadership team". The only certainty will likely be dysfunction at every level of the organisation, as one ends up with people pretending to be what they are not and feeling like failures when they are unable to perform. Only the staff generally will notice the dysfunction and it will always result in lower performance at every level.

The best we can expect is a managed organisation, often fighting to stay alive. Just like the trucking companies I mentioned, these senior people act like a brake on the enterprise and somehow believe that all and any directed activity equals progress, even when the activities are unfocused and ineffective.   

Are we brave enough to be honest in assessing where we are in this mix?



Philip SmithAuthor:Philip Smith
About: Philip specialises in getting projects and businesses that are not performing as well as expected, back on track.
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