THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - Leadership & Management. Are they mutually exclusive?

Posted by | March 01, 2012 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

The organisation I eternally maintain my membership of (Chartered Management Institute (CMI)) has, today, asked a question which is very close to my heart:

“Do you need to be a good leader to be a good manager?”

This made me think.  Leadership and management are two completely different skills, and I have, in my time, seen those I consider highly competent in each.  But do you need BOTH in today’s 21st Century workplace, and is it possible to hone skills in both or should they eternally remain as fighting siblings?

What do you think?  Those you admire and aspire to in the workplace, do they have one or both of these skills?  And if so, what was the moment (if ever) you thought of them in this way?  So please do discuss:

“whether the best leaders have strong management skills, and do you consider managers as natural leaders?”

As always, please share widely.

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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

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  • Paulina says:

    Not every manager is a good leader. I came across very good managers, who had great skills to make business a success but they were no where near good leaders.
    A good leader is someone you want to follow, who sets directions. A manager is some who controls and makes sure things happen to already established plans. I read about this subject recently on my NVQ course. I think a manager with natural leadership skills is the key to teams’ success!

  • Georgie Agass says:

    I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive, but excellence in (or even just presence of) one definitely does not mean high levels of the other. Leaders are challenging, visionary, inspiring, even somewhat intimidating – someone you aspire to develop into. Managers should be more supportive, to walk alongside you while they challenge you, to help you identify the path you should take to avoid the tree roots, etc, in order to reach the shangri-la described by the leader.
    The danger is that in many organisations we don’t properly train people to be either managers or leaders, but just promote the person who is best at ‘doing the doing’. It’s the equivalent of taking the best teacher in a school, removing them from the classroom, and making them responsible for planning the timetable, managing the budget and negotiating with the LEA – and they might not be good at any of that, even though they’re a great teacher.
    So in summary, no, the best leaders don’t necessarily have strong management skills, and nor do the best managers make natural leaders, but it is possible for one person to be both. Sharon, without wishing to sound creepy, I think you’re probably one of the people I’ve met who best embodies the the two skill sets existing side by side. Dominic Hardy was another. Privileged to have worked alongside both of you.

  • Aresko says:

    Absolutely with you on that Paulina. Very different things indeed. I honestly think people can learn to manage but the essence of leadership comes from deep inside. People can usually see through a “method leader” as I call them.

  • Aresko says:

    Interesting Georgie – feel free to be creepy – I love it 🙂 But thank you anyway – you will never know how much I appreciate hearing that. I haven’t seen Dom for ages – do you still keep in touch? I must look him up and touch base again (… makes note to self!)

    I agree about some of the reasons we promote people. I spent a lot of time with a certain Master Bailey explaining the difference in these two things before he got his SCS job. He was also kind enough to ring me afterwards and say nice things 🙂 I’ve often see those promotions end in tears for the individual and the organisation and I don’t think its fair on either. Recruitment is expensive so its important to get the right person. GP commissioning is another topical example right now. One GP said to me recently “this is really REALLY hard” – and my answer was “yes it is – I never promised you it would be easy – it will take years to hone these skills – listen hard and often, we don’t have much time!!”

    Management and Leadership are high level skills if deployed to the level of excellence I eternally try to aspire to. I honestly believe it is a directors responsibility to consider them “the day job” over everything else. Thats why it also takes years of proper training to etch them onto your soul. If its not from the soul, I think staff can see through it in a flash.

    Seriously Georgie, you are too kind, I learn a new insight about myself every single day. I think everyone should do too.

  • Peggy Edwards says:

    I definately believe you need both within orgnisations, having brilliant leaders alone can certainly inspire and free up innovation but the bills don’t get paid and poor performance is not tackled. Also great ‘management’ of a team can lead to an efficiently run department with no excitement or engery within a team.
    I would echo Georgie’s comments – to find both in one person is rare and a real skill. Again without brown nosing Sharon certainly has these skills. The ability to deliver a difficult message, even a bottom-kicking party and STILL make a team member valued and worth while is not something everyone can do.
    Leaders also have a job to do……..

  • Aresko says:

    Thanks Peggy. Again, nice to hear – am humbled – didn’t ask the question for such nice kind words!

    However, I guess its a question of timing, as often it is. If an organisation is going through change and transition, then leadership should be the major. If its in a mature phase then management is very important to generate some innovation and continuous improvement. I haven’t been anywhere yet where the “hearts and minds” element of leadership hasn’t been required – it seems fairly constant so if you can capture hearts and minds during times of little or slow change, then you are on to a winner for the tough and fast-paced, often painful times.

    I think we are all talking about one thing, i.e. a constant juggling act. So I”m off to practice my juggling 🙂

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