But is this what business needs? Does everyone really need to be a leader? Is everyone capable of becoming a leader?
First, we need to define what leadership is and how this differs from management. One of the most succinct quotes I've found puts this very simply:
“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”
Stephen Covey, Management Thinker
This would certainly mirror my view, that Leadership is about formulating vision and strategy, whereas Management is about execution of that vision or strategy. There is definitely something within the study of leadership around the personality of leaders - Transformational Leadership, but I'll leave that to another post. Here I'm concerned with differentiating between two terms that many seem to confuse or use interchangeably.
So, does everyone that's a manager also need to be a leader?
I think it depends. It depends on whether that person is responsible for managing tasks or teams. If it's management of tasks, then no, leadership is not required, just effective management of the task and its associated processes. If it's managing teams, then yes, some element of leadership is required as creating a shared vision for the team is essential in creating forward momentum. And here's our first problem.
Many organisations have come to confuse the label "management" with solely managing people. Rising to the heady heights of management in an organisation almost always entails taking ownership of a team of people. Gone are the days when a Manager could just get on with his/her job - managing a process in which s/he is highly proficient. So what do we have? A whole heap of people that are highly proficient in managing tasks and activities thrust into an arena that requires leadership behaviours that they do not possess. Leadership requires a strategic mind and emotional content to engender followership.
Can anyone become a leader?
A debate that will probably rage on for ever, is the "are leaders born or made?" argument. For me, I would tend to agree with the notion that some leaders are born, but all are made. This is to say that some people posess certain social advantages at birth, characteristics and predispositions to intellect that make them better equipped to lead, but only if the circumstances and life experiences create the situations for that potential to be realised.
So, back to the Management Vs Leadership debate. Selection of the right people for the right jobs is essential. Those who are good at managing processes and activities may not neccesarily be capable leaders of people. Allow them to to take on roles where their talents can be utilised away from the stress and dangers of leading people. Those who show aptitude for leading people can be spotted with an effective talent agenda, and yes, in this context, leaders can be developed to inspire and lead your people.
This means that you will have some people that will make great managers but not leaders and you will have some managers that can also be great leaders. You may also have some great leaders who are poor managers - visionaries, strategists, for whom execution and management holds little thrill nor do they hold any competence in management, but are able to ignite passion, excitement and clear, compelling direction. The key is to identify who is what and ensure that the right job fit is achieved and that training and development is tailored accordingly.
The questions that remain for many organisations are;
- are you able to distinguish between your managers and leaders in spotting talent?
- does your organisational structure allow you to exploit people's talents appropriately?
- are you directing people to the right development given what they need to do or the talents they hold?
- are you promoting based on professional competence/time served, sheep dipping people through generic Leadership/Management training and hoping for the best?
Fancy chatting this through? You know what to do. ;)
The following always amuses me and also highlights a major difference between the strategic concerns of leadership and the detailed musings of management. It's a letter from The Duke of Wellington (a formidable character and wit of his time) to the British Foreign Office in London, written from Central Spain, August 1812:
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance,
2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant
I'll leave you with this, connected to the subject only by Wellington...I just think it's funny. Enjoy.
Until next time, take care.
Al @ Oracle