Letters: Leading and/or managing?

Leadership is still key topic in the HR literature but the rush to incorporate “Leader” into position titles appears to have abated. Leadership development programmes continue and the manager/leader debate is no doubt maintained. Which tends to make one wonder if nomenclature has lot to answer for.

It is not difficult to produce and teach range of skills and behaviours to exemplify the ideals of leadership, but if one were to seek to appoint leader (but do not followers determine whether or not they will follow such an appointee?) will not the training also embrace elements of management? Leading and managing are not effectively discrete roles unless one is either saint or dictator.

On the one hand manager must achieve targets through mandating sequence of objectives, plans, action, control and review as set out in the business plan – the business cannot function otherwise – and this is accepted without question (though good two-way communication and harmonious relationships are necessary to facilitate the process), standard practice procedures are just that and people comply with them.

On the other hand, commitment is voluntary response from those who wish to give of themselves to contribute to purpose. It cannot be mandated. This is the product of leadership, demonstrated by individual motivation and group morale – and its continuity cannot be assured.

If people choose not to follow leader the one to whom they report invariably switches to manager role to get things done.

It has been said that the culture of an organisation (and its leadership?) is reflected in the attitude of the CEO towards in-house communication.

Whoever holds the in-charge position and the accountability for the group outcomes it follows that he or she must have and use all the skills of managing and leading which are needed to meet each situation as it arises – and be judged accordingly.

The terms leader and manager are not interchangeable – each has its place, each is necessary and circumstances will determine which is used. But together they create yin and yang symbiosis1 to produce the essential unity without which neither is wholly effective. In our culture the misfortune is that we have no word to describe this unity and the blurring forced upon us continues.

Yin and yang when conjoined becomes ch’i – the essence of being – our nearest word is “chief” but it is unlikely that this will find favour!

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