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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Leadership or Management?

A recent British newspaper article intrigued me. It said that different kinds of work prospered under different governments: under Margaret Thatcher entrepreneurs thrived; under “New Labour” managers have thrived. It suggested that there are now too many of them, saying by way of example that the number of beds per manager in the National Health Service has declined so the service is less efficient.

The problem, the article concluded, is how to deal with that. Managers can tend to solve any problem by recruiting more managers. If workers suggest that this is inefficient then they are more likely to lose their job than to reduce the number of managers. The article paints one side of the picture. The increase in managers may be a good thing, for example if it allows doctors and nurses to spend all their time on the clinical work that they are trained for, and thus results in a better service. (I make no judgment!)

In any case, what is more important than how many managers there are, is how leadership is exercised. Many people assume that the management and leadership are the same thing. However it is not so.

A manager builds and marshals resources – often including people – in order to deliver particular results. The responsibility of leaders is to hold up and develop mission, vision, and strategy and to motivate and align people towards that achievement. The leader sees people as assets and seeks to encourage people to use their gifts and strengths for the common cause. This means that managers can be great leaders, and that a leader does not necessarily do management work.

Leadership is about direction and about influence, so I agree with those who say that we are all called to be leaders even if we do not hold a leadership post in an organisation.

To lead well we need to have the right attitudes, particularly to people, and to build an environment where everyone is able to contribute to, and buy into, vision and goals, and given freedom to use their particular skills and initiative to reach those goals. With these attitudes, coaching is a good way to support staff to achieve their objectives and to contribute to organisational goals.

We also need to be aware of the different approaches that underly this, for example Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y.

For more information about this, go to our web site Leader of Manager?

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