Friday, March 11, 2005

Leadership and Management – Chalk and Cheese

“There is a difference between leadership and management. Leadership is of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision; its practice is an art. Management is of the mind, a matter of accurate calculation ….its practice is a science. Managers are necessary; leaders are essential”
Field Marshall Lord Slim, when Governor-General of Australia

“Leaders say … this is where we are going….. Managers say … this is how we are going to get there.”
A General Practitioner as part of interview during my research

I think leadership and management are as different as chalk and cheese.
My views have been formed over 35 years as a manager in the National Health Service in England and particularly as a result of my research when studying leadership from the perspective of family doctors in 1997/8.

Good managers do not necessarily make good leaders and good leaders do not necessarily make good managers. Each has a distinct but different role.
Leadership qualities are far less tangible and measurable whilst most management processes can be measured.
Perhaps this is best summed up with Warren Bennis quote “Managers do things right … leaders do the right things.”

There is clearly something about effective leaders that makes them stand out from the crowd. I find it impossible to identify and quantify that elusive quality. When I look back through my own career, I have had superiors who are clearly leaders and those who are clearly managers.

The Leaders among my past bosses:
  • Have high levels of integrity
  • Are focused on the bigger picture
  • Are not comfortable with “intense detail”
  • Make me feel part of their vision
  • Do not punish mistakes – they see mistakes as a learning opportunity
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Are not afraid of unpopularity

The Managers among my past bosses:

  • Are process driven
  • Are comfortable with detail
  • Are more interested in the bottom line than the wider vision
  • Want to measure everything
  • Are not comfortable challenging the corporate view

I think the difference is around the words 'hard' and 'soft.'

My experience of effective managers is they tend to be very good at the “hard stuff.” They are concerned with measurable outcomes – sometime obsessed with process at all costs. They appear to be driven by the need to prove their effectiveness in some tangible way.

Leaders are interested in the soft stuff – the immeasurable, the anecdote, the story. Effective leaders in my career are generally not so interested in the detail of process but they need to be assured there is a process.

Paradoxically, the effective leader will be interested in the detail of something that may appear very trivial to “non leaders.” For example, many of us have worked in organisations that proclaim:

  • “We value our staff”
  • “We are an equal opportunities employer”
  • “We value diversity.”

Picture now a wet, cold and dark winter morning, a 6 am early morning hospital shift for the cleaner who parks her car in the staff car park 200 yards from the staff entrance. As she fights her way through the cold wind and rain to the entrance she notices the empty car park spaces reserved for Directors, Dcotors and Chief Executive, positioned immediately outside the main entrance.

She cannot help thinking the mission statement somehow just does not ring true.

The effective leader will be interested in the feelings of that cleaner and even if the leader cannot solve the parking problem, the fact the leader is interested at all, will spread around the organisation quicker than the speed of light.

Quite often the leader will also solve the problem of the car parking as well.

Small things are important – leadership is not only about the big picture

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