Monday, 16 October 2017

Leadership or Management?

It's an important question, so pause for a moment to consider the difference and how you would answer.

I spend a large proportion of my working life with my coaching and training sleeves rolled up on the truly joyful practical task of developing individual leaders, leadership teams and organisation leadership strategies. I have also devoted years of my academic life researching leader and leadership development, finally creating a PhD thesis on the subject and I LOVE it! If there was such a tribe as the Leadership Nerds, I'd be wanting to lead it!

However, I also spend time training managers and engaged in management development and I love that too, but I see them as completely different and separate skill sets.

Currently, I think that the management concept is getting a bit bullied and beaten up by the leadership ideology and don't understand the need to keep comparing and contrasting them in the simplistic way portrayed by those clever info graphics where the main message is that leadership is good and management (or the boss) is either less desirable or down right bad.

I saw one the other day where it described the leader as inspiring and the boss as inspiring fear - really?!

To me, that's just similar to an Orwellian framing of one of Snowball's Seven Commandments of Animalism "four legs good, two legs bad" that the sheep are encouraged to bleat throughout Animal Farm.
milk chocolate hot cocoa mix

At best, most seem to imply that leadership is a higher form than management. Better, more desirable and that leadership is some sort of outcome from developing managers. I strongly disagree and here are my reasons why:

In our increasingly uncertain and complex world, commercial enterprise needs managing more than ever and businesses of all shapes and sizes tend to employ managers for 2 very simple reasons:

1) To protect the assets
2) To balance the income and expenditure

Of course both these important activities are contextual and have varying levels of appropriateness, but stripped down to its vest and pants - that's the job most of us in the management profession are paid to do. And if you are a manager and you aren't aware of this, then go (PDQ) and check your job description because sure as eggs are eggs, (to continue the farm theme)  whoever is paying you will have that notion lodged firmly in their expectation set.

If you aren't fulfilling those two functions adequately in a hospitality business, which is where most of my beans get counted, then it is irrelevant if you are the most personally aware, emotionally intelligent person on the planet with the coveted leadership ability to display your vulnerability to all - you'll soon be leading the way to the unemployment queue if you aren't fulfilling the basic management requirements of your role.

So I feel a need to establish some clarity on this because management is an important profession and managers need to be paying attention to their professional practice in just the same way as practitioners in other professional groups do - or should be doing.

Management practice is something to be proud of and the role has a clear set of responsibilities that define it.  Leadership also has defining and desired role characteristics but they are different, separate skill, knowledge and behaviour outputs. Just like tomatoes and oranges. They are both fruits, but you would only put one of them in your fruit salad.

Or - to return to the farm theme - don't keep cows if you want to sell eggs.

"Manager" is an organisational title that, by definition comes with a responsibility for managing certain specified things and certain specified people, or groups of people within your span of control. These "things" are your responsibilities and the people are your direct reports. They are contractually obligated to their employing organisation and its management in whatever form that contract exists. There is usually a reporting line and organisation structure. To not do as you ask as their manager, within reason, is to risk frustrating their contractual obligations. Simple as that.

 Managing well requires skills in planning, organising, directing, controlling and a whole load of un-sexy every-day stuff to maintain the status-quo, topped off with a layer of need to innovate, manage change, solve problems, think creatively and yada yada yada....

To sub-grade these skills is to do all managers an injustice. Management, managers, bosses - call them what you will - are vital for your business. These skills can, and should be, developed, trained, taught and then transferred and practiced proudly.

In contrast, a leader has followers and the key difference is that following is a voluntary activity. It involves discretionary effort and hospitality businesses rely heavily on the discretionary effort of its lovely people. If you are unconvinced about this, consider how much of your operational success is achieved by people doing what they are paid to do?  I bet your best Trip Advisor comments are as a result of people doing more than they are paid to do - going the extra mile, being super helpful, going out of their way and employing more than a smidgeon of discretionary effort.

Another word for it is engagement. As an attitude and precursor to behaviour, you can't buy it, you can't contract it and it's darn near impossible to train  so you need great leadership to inspire great followership.

Leaders are not born and can be made (hoorah). There's a process involved and certain key behaviours that can be learned and developed. But it's the clear separation or skill sets that matters and in my opinion, belief and experience, it is a balance and synthesis of the two practices that gets the best results - and it's not rocket science!

In my beloved hotel and hospitality sector, the two roles of manager and leader are so intertwined and vital that it is sometimes a challenge to separate them. However, they are different and I think it is important that they are nurtured and developed as discrete and equally important skill sets.

There is a distinct difference between management development and leader development - and there should be. Furthermore, developers like me should jolly well know the difference and be able to articulate it clearly. How else can we be trusted to develop the right things in the right people in the right way and at the right time?

I'm not publishing a "down with leadership" idea here - but more of an "up with management" one, because I think it might be necessary to right the current balance. 

Am I the only one?

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