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A Reflection: Do we need Leaders or Managers?
-a Leader vs. Manager Discourse

May 15, 2017

It is easy to spend some time discussing the difference between managers and leaders, my delegates usually have very strong opinions. They are not the only ones! This topic has provoked a lot of debate amongst academics and consultants and many books have been written on the subject…

Here is a distillation of my own thoughts, picking out excerpts from the literature and relating them to my own experience of working with managers and leaders from large multinational companies to small businesses; from the private, government and not-for-profit sectors.

Imagine an entrepreneur. Someone who has identified a new product or service which they think will fix someone’s problem. They become convinced that they will find customers willing to buy; they become obsessed with their idea; they only think about that one thing. They try to persuade everyone they meet what a great idea it is. They find people to help them make or develop it. They find people to write about it and explain how it will benefit the customer. They are single minded and driven! Do they want to hear what might go wrong? Do they want to hear about possible competitors? No!! This person is visionary. They may also be charismatic. However, do they display attributes which people consider to be important for leaders, such as: the ability to listen to other points of view, the ability to organize and allocate work responsibilities, the ability to delegate tasks?? Most probably not… They may, however, be excellent at raising funds, developing external relationships, they may have excellent technical capabilities. What are they – a manager or a leader?

Now picture someone in a company or division of around 300 people, with 12 direct reports, who is also part of a decision-making management team. They have a sound understanding of the organisation’s aims in the short, medium and long-term. They are very good at securing resources to deliver their own departmental objectives: the budgets, people, facilities and technology which are required. They communicate very well with their subordinates: they are able to agree individual objectives, the give constructive feedback, they ensure that employees have enough to do (without being overwhelmed), they build relationships with customers and suppliers. In fact, they are a model employee. What characteristics do they display – those of a manager or leader?

Roffey Park management school, have defined leaders as “doing the right thing” whilst managers “do things right”. The former has a senior decision-making role, determining the aims of the organisation and ensuring that a sustainable strategy is selected. The latter, are able to make things happen through their own and others’ abilities; they set objectives, plan, delegate and monitor progress – in short, they deliver! The Roffey model also recognizes that both leaders and managers need ‘people skills’: they need to listen and communicate, they must develop staff skills and capabilities, they must assign work to the right person and so forth.

Another ‘guru’, Henry Mintzberg, very usefully defined 10 roles for managers and recognized that these fell into three categories: interpersonal, informational and decisional. Mintzberg’s roles fall into both managerial and leadership categories, recognising that managers also need leadership capabilities. Reflect on the two examples, ask yourself, does the entrepreneur have any managerial capabilities? Does the manager in the second example demonstrate any leadership qualities? Food for thought…

During the upcoming course “Strategic Planning, Development & Implementation” you will have the opportunity to learn more about management and leadership theory and practice and relate it to your own experience, as well as those of other delegates. You will get opportunities to practice skills as well as learning how to use a range of analytical tools. This will help you consolidate your skills and help you progress to the next level. You and your organisation will reap the benefits.

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