Often you hear from people who talk about the importance of leadership skills while also dismissing the value of management. Great leaders are important and leadership is extremely valuable, but great leaders are often also great managers, or if they are not, they learn how to be great managers.
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How leadership became more valuable than management
Leaders inspire people in ways that even the best managers don't. Leadership, quite simply, is a sexy skill. It also seems to be easier.
Attribution: Flickr - Wesley Fryer
I have heard people claim that successful companies are those that have someone at the top with a great vision, and they imagine that leading such a company simply involves sitting around coming up with great and amazing ideas. Don't get me wrong, creating a shared vision for a company is incredibly important, but the work required to do that is incredible. You have talk to hundreds of people, keep everyone focused on a plan without offending key staff. Then you have to make sure that the plan actually comes together.
Leadership, teamwork, communications and so on tend to universal skills. They can easily be taught to anyone and applied in many different situations. Management skills are usually a little more specific.So leadership has become something that is taught and sold as the important skill above management.
Can we have leadership without management?
This is what can be labelled the Dumb Company, Smart Person approach. Yes, a company can employ great people who are led by a person who inspires them to get the job done, but doesn't understand the job their employees are doing. The problem is that most of the knowledge is in the staff and not the company and managers begin to lose control of what is happening in their organisation and staff tend to push their own agenda.
The opposite is of course the Smart Company, Dumb Person approach which is the example of bad management that people bring up. This is where everyone in the company is highly managed and no one is allowed to think for themselves. Often it produces inflexible organisations that are unable to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
The ideal of course should be both, a Smart Company employing Smart People. This is where management is used effectively along side great leadership.
Key Management skills
While management tends to be fairly domain specific ,here are a few universal management principles that can be applied in any situation.
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The number one failure of managers is where they don't measure performance. In these circumstances often the best staff are harassed for every little failure, because the only feedback is a complaint. Desperate and incompetent managers use the complaints as the only way they understand what is going on.
Wherever I have worked and my performance is objectively measured, there is almost no conflict. As a manager having access to performance measures allows me to understand the performance of staff.
Of course no measure is perfect, but it is a start. If you are not measuring staff performance you should start doing it now.
Some managers only ever talk to staff to complain. It is very frustrating for everyone because if you only ever told you are doing things wrong it difficult to improve. Managers also become scared to talk to staff because it is always a negative experience for them.
Managers should provide regular, positive and constructive feedback. Meet your staff on a regular basis and tell them what they are doing well. You will have a much better relationship with your staff and it will be easy to handle complaints, partly because your staff are normally used to hearing positive information from you, and mostly because you already understand what that staff member does well and any problems can be put in that context.
Reward and punish appropriately
Ideally staff are self-motivated and will react to positive and constructive feedback to achieve in the workplace. Of course you can kill this off by punishing staff who have made an extra effort or rewarding the lazy and insincere.
Bad managers provide random reactions to situations. So that the best staff end up leaving because they feel under appreciated and lazy or incompetent staff are happy because they are getting random positive rewards along with complaints.
Provide skills and knowledge
The worst managers I have seen are often managing in areas where they have no domain knowledge. They are not able to provide guidance to staff when there are problems. I really never understood why this is a big issue.
If you are manager then you have the responsibility to gather domain knowledge while also respecting the knowledge of the people that you work for.
Also there are many ways you can assist staff you are under-performing even if you don't possess the skills yourself. You can link them up with mentors, send them to training or simply encourage them to learn on their by listening to their ideas.
Don't forget the basics
There are managers who never have a single meeting and then spend all their time complaining about being interrupted by staff asking for basic information. Then there are managers who keep people who need to communicate apart so that they can't work together. It has been found that staff who work long hours are usually sitting around waiting for information or decisions from their managers so that they can do their work. Let's not forget the managers who can't even provide basic equipment to their staff to do their jobs.
There is no point in being a great leader if you can't manage to even do the basics.
Leadership & Management
There is no leadership and management divide. Yes, there are petty little middle managers who go through the motions of being managers, but they usually don't even manage well and usually only carry out the basic management functions because they are told to do so.
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Management is a vital skill. Leaders without management skill can be worse than managers without leadership skills.
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