Friday, May 1, 2009

Leadership and Management

Leadership and Management
Ok this discussion could go anywhere and it is as old as time. The questions that is mostly asked is can a leader be made or are they created? I will attempt to give my perspective on this. Again, this one may turn out to be more of a rant but I feel under these times of stress and crisis it is important to have this discussion.
Leadership and management are both required for any organization to be successful. There are many business schools that cloud the issues and interchange the words. I completely disagree with this thinking. Do not get me wrong both words are very positive to me and they are very real roles. However, there is a difference and I will attempt to explain.
Just so there is no confusion, I will state that in my opinion leaders are born. You can teach leaders to be better and give them more tools to work from. I have the same opinion of trouble shooters. You can make them better with training however; they need the character to start from. My personal opinions of those experts whom believe the contrary are saying it to sell the snake oil of their training programs.
Management is the care and feeding of an existing system to make it better and to be efficient. You have management of people, time, scope, quality and a whole ream of other things. In the end, a vision was created by someone or something else and it is now the management of those strategic, operational and tactical items that is important.
Management is critical for any organization to be successful. Well managed teams and organizations can weather many storms and are difficult to knock off balance. However, when real change is needed by the organization to succeed management will struggle with how to solve the problem. Recent events of the economic crisis are case and point in this. Large very well managed companies are failing to respond to the situation. It is because the management team was closed to real inputs and changing factors. Crisis of what we are facing do not happen overnight. It is a long term effect of poor management decisions not necessary poor management. The goal of management is to keep the collective calm. The graphic above is an attempt to illustrate the concept. The consensus concept is not bad; in fact, it is a great management style. However, the concept does not promote innovation or free will. That would cause management issues and those issues must be excised to keep order. This is why well managed organizations can weather a storm but rarely can avoid the storm in the first place.
Then we get into management promotion from within. This is also a two edged sword. You get the insight from someone who has history with the firm; however, this promotes a closed system. Strong management teams promote this behavior and it causes the system to become stagnant and less resistant to change.
Leadership comes in many forms. It comes from all levels of the organization and it must start with personal leadership. This is the type of person that steps away from the crowd and asks “why” or “there has to be a better way”. Innovative and creative organizations promote this behavior at all levels not just within their management ranks. Leaders take charge and make the tough decision even in the face of personal adversity. A leader who puts themselves aside and does the right thing for the collective is the true leader. Many leaders can be confused with charismatic managers. Do not confuse the two. Look at what visions leaders leave behind. A leader leaves a lasting imprint on the organization and charismatic managers leave the group with a good feeling but not a clear vision to follow.
A leader by my definition is someone who can positively get someone to do something that they would not have normally done. Once completed it raises the personal bar as it were. By doing so, the person being led is now better for it. Some people are great manipulators and can get people to do things they would not have done. The acid test is the person doing the work better for it or just the person asking for the work done?

A leader leads from the front, is the last to eat, first to rise, the last to sleep and takes care of the people under their care first. Most management schools don’t even recognize what this sentence means and that is why it is a management school.

In times of crisis leadership must be promoted to navigate the storm not just weather it. Sadly, the world is getting lean on leaders and too rich (multiple context) on management. Leaders seek consensus but are not framed by it. Some examples of current leadership are Tony Blair, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Thatcher and Barrack Obama. All of these people shined in crisis and struggled in calm. The collective are quick to cling and to be lead through the storm, however, once the clear sky appears they want to return to the comfort zone. Sadly, we as a society are too quick to penalize the peacetime leader in favour of the manager who can split the financial hairs to get more bonuses and perks for the elite.
General Motors was well managed but very poorly led and hence they are on the brink of self made collapse. The management team was so use to drinking from a fire hydrant and so far removed from the product they made that when the customer went elsewhere all they could say was, “heah, we are number one and if we fall the economy fails”. How sad is that? People are still buying cars, just not theirs. Good leaders would have known to build something that will get purchased. The examples of this are many, current telecommunications companies, air lines, cable companies and hard goods manufacturers all need to learn from the auto crisis. Get out of your offices and go and talk to your customers. Learn what they need and want and stop thinking we are cows to be herded.

In conclusion

If any of you are Star Trek fans you will know the borg. The borg is management and they were powerful, however, a strong leader, Captain Picard was able to get the management (borg) to fail at its lowest unprotected system. The system attacked was to lull them to sleep. They did and the captain won. When we look at recent events and we see how simple the failure was and how pervasive the abuse was it is no wonder that leaders are excised from the management teams. Our recent ails are based on greed and selfish management teams whom have lost touch with what business they are in.

People remember leaders; leaders need management and management needs leaders. Once leadership is excised all management system will eventually fail. Look around you, are you the leader or just the manager. It is your choice and your choice alone.

My mantra is “Lead, Follow or get out of the way”. This may sound crass but take a deeper look and you will see the mantra is just stating, “Know your role”.

1 comment:

  1. Notice how many of those well-managed companies are managed by bean-counters, who will never be leaders by the very nature of their skills, and much becomes clear.

    I enjoyed the post.