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Leadership v Management

Traditional management consists of setting targets and managing to achieve those targets, and making ongoing adjustments to keep plans on track. A manager’s skill set will include man management,  problem solving, process management, tracking and monitoring, testing and validation skills as well as a functional expertise.

Every organization needs good managers to ensure that business objectives are met and risks are managed and controlled. But managerial skills alone will not bring about ongoing transformational change, and this is what differentiates leaders from managers – although the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ are often used interchangeably.

The reason there is so much focus on leadership these days is an increasing recognition that long term survival in business depends on anticipating and preparing for changes in the environment, rather than just reacting to changes as they occur.

Leadership therefore  is about developing a vision for the future, often through creative ‘outside of the box’ thinking. It is about motivating staff to go the extra mile in pursuit of what is seen as an inspiring goal. This can come from the drive and vision of an individual but to be sustained needs multi disciplinary teams where creative input, is both encouraged and rewarded.

The good news is that being a member of a team with a transformation agenda is motivational as it meets individual  needs for belonging, recognition, creative expression and empowerment. Being involved in shaping the future also generates ownership and commitment  to the organizations mission.  [In fact keeping staff motivated to complete necessary but mundane tasks may be a greater challenge !]

Involvement alone will not be enough – a supportive culture with the following elements is needed:

– openness, transparency and trust between management and staff
– flat /non hierarchical organizational structure
– strong informal/formal cross functional internal networks
– reward for effort/achievement as part of a team
– safe for individual to express ‘controversial’ points of views
– mistakes are viewed as being part of the learning process
– commitment to internal engagement/consultation at the problem definition and solution design stages

In an ideal world everybody in the organization would have and exercise both managerial and leadership skills. However, while good managers can also be good leaders and visa versa, this does not necessarily have to be the case, as long as it is recognized that both skill sets are required. Obviously, in sectors which are subject to rapid change (e.g. due to the influence of technological change) strong leadership is more critical to future success and survival.


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