Is leadership simply a higher form of management?
Should leaders command, direct, explain, plead, role-model, inspire, cajole, threaten, bargain, encourage, coach, mentor, manipulate, or expect people to just get on with what they’re paid to do without being “bossed”?
Do your leadership KPIs measure leadership quality or organisational performance? Are they the same or separate issues? Can leadership effectiveness be reasonably argued if your part of the organisation succeeds and ineffectiveness if it doesn’t?
Are the primary customers of leadership and proper arbiters of its effectiveness the corporate body or the individuals you directly lead? What weight should be attached to judgements about the quality of your leadership made by these two groups?
It’s unlikely that anyone has a monopoly on the correct answers to questions such as these, but leaders’ exploration of them is the basis of better leadership. This article is designed to support treating the topic as one worthy of frequent and thorough attention, for that purpose. It is based on some of my own assumptions, derived from experience of leading my own groups, from mentoring work with other leaders over many years, and on what I have come to value in leadership practices.
1 Leadership is everyone’s business. We should all give leadership over what is important to us.
2 Everyone in a leadership position should carefully consider differing perspectives of the topic and come to their own understanding of it. They should define what they mean by leadership and identify the practices on which theirs is intentionally based.
3 The merits of any definition depend on the extent to which it actually guides, informs and helps identify the specific practices of effective leadership.
4 Leaders should self-monitor and self-regulate their practices of leadership.
5 While leaders must be concerned with the Big Picture and with Big Issues to do with organisational achievement, it is also the execution of thousands of small matters over time that defines leadership quality in the eyes of those who are led.
6 Good, bad or indifferent, the everyday behaviours of leaders set standards and continuous reference-points for others, more clearly than anything leaders may say. It’s therefore important that leaders hold clear ideals of those behaviours and a plan for developing them.
7 Frequent, open discussion of these matters amongst leaders at all levels is a sign of a learning organisation with self-reflective, self-regulating constituents intent on continuously enhancing the quality of leadership practices. Senior leaders should discuss them with other leaders reporting to them, to keep awareness of the topics to the fore.
8 Unfortunately, the topic often flies under the radar while leaders’ discussions are almost exclusively dominated by achievement of whatever is the organisation’s Primary Task. Improvement of individuals’ actual leadership practices tend to be attended to by exception, consigned to support from external coaches or training programmes.
Those who self-regulate (or self-manage) their leadership are constantly self-aware of their practices and take active control over continuously improving them. They –
- Plan to achieve pre-determined levels of competence derived from their study of leadership
- Consciously monitor their leadership practices as they apply them
- Remain constantly aware of their strengths and weaknesses
- Identify distractions (both internal and external) and blocks to their leadership
- Overcome distractions and adjust, refine and improve their practices on the basis of awareness of effect
- Possess a broad range of generic, context-independent “tools” (practices and processes) appropriate for a wide variety of leadership situations
- Choose the right “tool” (skill, method or sub-process of leadership) for the task at hand, to ensure goal achievement.
Conventional leadership often includes these practices:
1 Leaders (of organisations, teams, groups and meetings) avoid monitoring and evaluating the appropriateness of their practices on the basis of methodically-gathered feedback from those they lead – some of the primary customers of their leadership practices. They are then likely to be unaware of the extent to which their behaviours originate or exacerbate anxiety, fear, scepticism, mistrust, suspicion or cynicism in the people they lead. Through misunderstanding or under-estimating the significance of their role-modeling, they miss opportunities for positive influence. The negative influences of unhelpful modeling compound.
2 Those who should lead, view leadership as a higher level form of management, thus allowing a leadership vacuum to exist. Others may try to fill the gap but fail without the authority to lead. Commitment to vision and direction weakens. Focus diffuses. Energy drops. People tire.
3 Some leaders seek to impose control over . . . everything, in order to make sure everything goes right. This may be experienced as mistrustful micro-management and result in others’ learned helplessness and low levels of self-responsibility. It’s one way of making sure things go wrong.
4 Some confuse leadership with directing, coercing or manipulating people into support for policies and initiatives. Others attempt such open-mindedness, flexibility and democratic niceness that they fail to stay on message and inspire confidence or followers. Still others believe it requires extensive academic study of complex concepts and cutting-edge developments, in the course of pursuing which, they fail to make commonsense ideas their common practice.
5 Inconsistent, conflicting, improvisational (non-methodical) or current best-seller models of leadership confuse people, making it hard to work out where the leader is coming from. People feel unsafe and learn to keep their heads down, until the current approach or fad passes.
6 Leaders use stereotypes about staff, make negative assumptions about them and apply self-defensive behaviours towards them. In response, staff use stereotypes about leaders, make negative assumptions and apply self-defensive behaviours towards them. These behaviours combine to lock the parties into mistrustful, self-perpetuating unhealthy relationships.
7 Leaders assume they know most of and most about existing problems in the organisation, and that workers at other levels are unaware of them. In fact it is more likely that workers know far more (or at least as much, albeit from differing perspectives) about both.
8 Leaders are unaware of the degree to which workers’ thoughts and feelings about leadership and management are derived from early conditioning around power, authority and control, and unconsciously projected on to others. They (leaders) unwisely assume that this negativity is directed at them personally. They perceive it as unfair attack, victimisation or unwarranted disrespect and become defensive.
9 Leaders with low self-esteem believe that their role requires appeasement, prevarication, equivocation on unpopular decisions, or an unwise degree of fraternising with those they lead, in order to gain approval.
10 They unwisely assume that because they have been chosen as leaders, they do not need continuous methodical development for the leadership role.
11 Leaders confuse their role with managing, to the extent that managers’ capacity to manage is compromised or frustrated through unwelcome interference. Managers learn dependency and helplessness, become powerless.
12 In emergencies, leaders rush to plug the gap, put out the fire or rescue people. This may leave a void or leadership vacuum because the leader is now unavailable for other matters, and can create greater risk.
13 Leaders behave as though others can easily give them feedback on their behaviours in that role. In fact, this is usually the most seriously difficult issue for staff and colleagues to confront appropriately and the most studiously avoided need. [Ryan & Oestreich, 1998]. Covert frustration, negativity, resentment and hostility increase.
Define leadership and prescribe its practices for yourself
Use these notes to trigger and clarify your own ideas and ideals:
The word lead implies travel, guiding or directing by going ahead, setting example or precedent.
Leaders go first, inspiring others, animating in the heart or arousing in the mind a worthy or noble impulse to do something.
Their start-point is their own clarity of vision and aspiration.
Leaders do the right thing.
Leadership also involves keeping track of overall progress; keeping actions moving forward; identifying issues and obstacles early on; promoting communication, cooperation and understanding.
The word manage has a Latin origin – manus, meaning hand. Management implies hands-on directing, regulating, implementing, administering or controlling resources, the course of affairs or others’ activities for a specific purpose. Management is completely compatible with and ought to be concerned with empowering and enabling others to work with increasing self-management. Managers do the right thing right.
Management also involves keeping track of overall progress; keeping actions moving forward; identifying issues and obstacles early on; promoting communication, cooperation and understanding.
A definition: The art of inspiring and facilitating others’ commitment to and striving for shared aspirations.
Inspire: encourage, enthuse, motivate; bring about others’ intrinsic (self) motivation and self-management.
Facilitate: ease, assist, make possible.
Aspirations: ideals, goals and plans.
Leadership success is measured by the effects on those led, especially the alignment and quality of their attitudes and actions.
|A definition: The methodical planning, organising, directing and measurement of desired performance.
Management aims at continuously improved performance through making five common sense ideas, common practice.
Management success is measured by the achievement of specific targets.
All leadership has a component of management, as all leadership projects (including the development of leadership practices) need to be managed. The degree of management within a leader’s role is usually determined by role specification and authority.
Generally, the focus of senior leaders is on inspiring people to contribute their best to the strategic vision and Big Picture. The more senior the leader, the more this is so and the less operational management is required or desirable.
All managers are capable of leadership and have a duty to give it.
Generally, management is more concerned than leadership with the detail of day-to-day requirements and ensuring that specific, localised results are achieved.
A helpful approximation of this is that leadership has an 80% strategic focus and a 20% operational focus, while management has an 80% operational focus and a 20% strategic focus.
 These are the five leadership practices outlined by James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge (1967, revised 2003) and taught worldwide in a leadership programme of the same name. The authors’ long-term research led them to identify 25 observable behaviours that followers require from leaders (five each under Challenge, Inspire, Enable, Model and Encourage). Those practices are taught within The Leadership Challenge programme and measured and monitored by Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), a 360˚feedback survey. Although I have been involved in administering and interpreting the LPI, have been trained to and have conducted The Leadership Challenge training programme, I have no current connection with the authors, their publishers or companies conducting the training.