There’s something about leadership that’s been nagging at me for a while. It’s nothing to do with leadership itself because leadership has a clear and important role to play in business, personal and career development. My nagging niggle is the amount written about leadership; its airtime is huge making it appear like the be-all and end-all of skills for anyone in charge.
Yet it seems, to me at least, that other skills and knowledge are suffering. Have the fundamentals of management gone so far out of fashion that they’re being lost completely?
I’m all for leadership. Leading a group of people or being part of a group or organisation that is well led is not only good for business but is motivating to such a level that you genuinely believe you can achieve anything. It is great when that happens yet there are still situations that must be managed and this is exactly what the Wallabies (the national Australian Rugby Union team) coach faced recently. He’s been giving sound leadership to the team as he builds the culture during a time of change. He’s had to set standards and makes roles and responsibilities clear. Regardless of how good his leadership he must be a good manager too. The recent situation is an excellent example of how he’s able to recognise when he must move from ‘Leader’ to ‘Manager’. While the situation wasn’t unique to his team he acknowledged the problem and dealt with it leaving no one under any doubt about the repercussions. In fact the article on the BBC website reported him saying that “Australia's "ethical conduct" standards had been compromised” and that “firm action is the best outcome when presented with a scenario like this.”
Yes I’m an All Black supporter and the Wallabies are one of our greatest rivals but this isn’t about the sport. What I admire about the Wallabies Coach with regards his management is this – the person responsible for the team was willing to take the action he deemed necessary by managing the situation and holding individuals to account. That’s what management is about.
The more forums, chats, workshops, specialist consultants, questions on LinkedIn and other social media interactions focus on leadership to organise people towards a common goal or as a means to provide guidance and direction while the team determines the best way to accomplish a task, the more management suffers. Could this be the reverse of too many chiefs and not enough Indians? In 2, 5 or 10 years will there be not enough chiefs and too many Indians? What happens when there’s no one in a senior role prepared to make a decision let alone capable of doing so?
To survive in today’s business world organisations need leaders who can manage and managers who can lead. Not the type of manager from days gone by who either micro-managed everyone to death or issued instructions as though their team were a group of gormless beings with no thought process whatsoever. No, today’s type of manager must be savvier with an in-built antenna that can pick up things that may not be visible or audible. They must have both management and leadership skills, understand the difference between them, recognise when a situation requires more of one than the other, shift seamlessly between the two and always be ready, willing and able to be responsible for both.
By all means educate, encourage and engage in sound leadership practices. At the same time remember the important role of management. By focusing solely on one the other is left to the vagaries of trends and buzzwords, which is only ever going to be detrimental to both the job at hand and the business at large.
It’s time to make management fashionable again.