THESE terms are often used interchangeably, though there is a distinct difference. At the core, they describe two different methods of motivating and organising people. Note that leadership and management are necessary and complimentary; one without the other — or too much of one and not the other — spells trouble for the organisation. Unfortunately, what we see in Zimbabwe today is more of management than leadership.
Not every leader is a manager, and vice versa. However, in today’s service-driven economy with an emphasis on the human element, managers more frequently have to learn to think like leaders and develop some of those skills in order to be successful.
What, then, is the fundamental difference? Leadership is not a role, it is something one does. It is about direction, vision, and influence; a leader is followed, while a manager is obeyed.
The manager has formal authority and is responsible for achieving the organisation’s operational goals. To accomplish this, he administers and directs people and resources. If this manager is able to influence people without using his authority to do so, then he is also a leader.
Leadership, therefore, is not automatically a function of title or rank. For those that follow this column you will remember my assertion in my previous instalment, that leadership is neither a title no a position, it is of course a state of mind. Simply because a person is occupying a senior level executive position does not mean he is a leader.
I remember in school we used to debate on “whether leaders are born or made?.” While some personalities are certainly better suited to leadership than others, I believe it is possible to cultivate those skills and develop leaders out of those that lack leadership skills — particularly if you would describe yourself as a “people person”.
I will from this point explore some of the skills that are pertinent or characteristic of leadership:
Leaders characteristically have the ability to look at situations/challenges from a fresh perspective. They thrive on challenges. Rather than follow established paths, they come up with new ones, which they are able to express explicitly and convince followership.
Here are some questions to ponder: what kind of impact do you intend to make? Who is going to benefit from it … why does it matter … and how are you going to deliver? You have got to have a clear picture of your vision — then you must be able to distinctly and concretely articulate it.
Leaders must possess superior communication skills. You are well aware that communication barriers in organisations cause under-performance. Many communication breakdowns are caused by a fundamental element of any relationship: Trust. There are so many ways you can build trust to avoid communication breakdowns and build high performance. I cannot explore all of them here.
What gives a person the ability to influence others to do something? For starters, you must recognise what motivates them. Further, a leader knows how to treat people. He recognises the achievements of others, listens to others, and understands that his success is determined by the success of the team. There are so many practical ways of helping leaders understand personality types in their teams.
Successful leaders build teams and foster environments conducive to teamwork. Building a team is not an overnight event it is a process going through several stages and leaders must understand each of these stages to be able to manoeuvre. Coming up with a cohesive team is a herculean task worth embarking on. The end result of teamwork is worth the effort.
A leader teaches, outlines what is expected, gives people the tools to succeed, and then gets out of the way. He does not provide solutions or step in to finish a task, even if he can get it done more quickly himself. By so doing, he allows the team the latitude to come up with alternatives — and possibly more effective — ways of doing things.
If he does not get the outcome he desires, it could be that he has people in the wrong jobs, or they may not be trained sufficiently. Poor deployment of people in an organisation is a biggest challenge facing most organisations in Zimbabwe.
A leader is trustworthy, ethical, and can admit when he is wrong. Integrity is like the roots of a tree which although underground and not visible yet are the biggest supporter providing strength, stability, nourishment and growth to the entire tree.
A person with integrity is balanced and complete, with a high character. We seem to have a critical deficit of this attribute in most executives or leaders in Zimbabwe.
A successful leader is likable and has that “it” factor. (This trait is one of those that is far more difficult to develop … you are way ahead if you are born with it.) However, there must be substance behind the facade. A charismatic personality with superior communication skills who is doing nothing more than offering lofty rhetoric can succeed for a while, but people will eventually see that the emperor is wearing no clothes.
Remember, companies need strong leadership and management — some people excel at both, though many will tell you they are better at one than the other. And that is fine. (Think about the successful start-up that is first led by the visionary founder until the company is on its feet … then that person steps aside and brings in an executive with a different set of skills to oversee day to day operations.)
Still, in today’s service-driven economy, it is useful to recognise the traits common to successful leaders and understand how to combine them with superior management skills in order to achieve desired goals and objectives.
Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. — email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.