• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Questions on leadership and management (1)

Questions on leadership and management (1)

Imagination is sometimes more important than knowledge. Imagination encircles the world” (Albert Einstein).

In October 2013, our company joined two other companies to host a leadership summit in Pretoria, South Africa with focus on trends and practice of leadership coaching. In attendance were middle to top management officers of companies around Johannesburg and Pretoria operating across different sectors of the economy. It was a very relaxing event held outdoors, with plenty of opportunities to network. That was one of the most pleasurable aspects of the event for me personally. Another pleasing part of the three-hour interactive programme for me was the question and answer session.

It is likely that the facilitators and organisers possibly learnt more than the participants during the featured question and answer session. That can be expected when leaders and managers from different backgrounds come together to express viewpoints, share personal experiences and seek more knowledge through their questions. And, because the focus was on leadership, there was bound to be quite some exposition and knowledge release from the practitioners, especially if they are well motivated to speak.

Due to space constraints, I will mention just two of the most interesting issues that attracted much debate, produced questions and motivated experience-sharing during the question and answer session. The first is the age-long debate about the difference between leadership and management. The second is the role and usefulness of executive (leadership) coaching. These two broad issues are so relevant to the modern thinking about leadership, especially within organisations that I think that they will continue to inspire debate and questions, as the needs to fill knowledge gaps remain.

On the issue of the difference between leadership and management, I shall provide my personal view. And in doing so, I would like to state that I believe that the debate on differences between leadership and management is really not necessary because both leadership and management must go hand in hand. Obviously, in terms of practical application and operation, they cannot be the same. They are however so much linked together and in fact complementary that any attempt to separate the two is unjustifiable.

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A book by Warren Bennis titled “On Becoming a Leader,” listed differences between a manager and a leader: “The manager administers, the leader innovates”; “The manager maintains, the leader develops”; “The manager focuses on systems and structure, the leader focuses on people”; The manager relies on control, the leader inspires trust”; “The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective”; “The manager asks how and when, the leader asks what and why”; “The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line, the leader’s eye is on the horizon”; etc.

Generally, the understanding people would have from the above listed differences is that the manager’s job is just to operate according to a set plan and coordinate things in keeping with standards. On the other hand, the leader is shown as someone with initiative, whose job is to inspire and motivate others. This point was in fact emphasised in the same book, where it was stated thus: “The manager accepts the status quo, the leader challenges it”; “The manager is the classic good soldier, the leader is his or her own person”; “The manager does things right, the leader does the right thing”.

Obviously, when Warren Bennis published his book in 1989, the emphasis was on the need for more leaders and personally inspired people who would not just want to be maintaining organisational status quo but challenging such, in order to improve it. The concept of management and the role of a manger at that time was simply to follow orders and assign the right people to the necessary tasks in order to get the work done efficiently. The focus then appeared to be more on efficiency – management efficiency.

In today’s world, the distinguishing line between leaders and mangers has totally disappeared. In the new economy, the role of management is not just to assign tasks to people and monitor them. The role has changed to discovering potentials, nurturing skills, developing talent and inspiring results. In the new economy, the task of a manager is to make people more productive by assessing and utilising specific strengths and knowledge of every individual. To me, that is also precisely what a leader does. I would therefore settle for a fusion of leader and manger, which is leader-manager.

According to Bennis, there are three reasons we need leaders. Firstly, they are responsible for the effectiveness of an organisation. Secondly, they provide guiding purpose. Thirdly, they lead through the chaos that is typical of organisations. In order to achieve these, leaders have to be real managers. They must manage people’s feelings, beliefs, expectations, capacities etc. The effective management of the individual and the team to produce the best results is what leadership is about. In the new economy, every manager is a leader and every leader is a manager. You can read more about the transformational power of coaching at www.ceedcoaching.com.

Emmanuel Imevbere