Follow the leader?

What’s
the difference between a leader and a manager? Very little, reports Lucie
Carrington as she listens to research being carried out in the field

Our
obsession with what makes a great leader isn’t new, but the ravages of the 1980s
and 90s – boom and bust, delayering, technological advance – have focused our
attention on the skills leaders and managers need, and how to get them.

The
increasingly fluid nature of work suggests that now everyone must lead rather
than just manage. Coping with change, building effective relationships,
empathising with colleagues and customers, enabling them to give their best are
skills we all need.

However,
according to the experts, management training techniques have yet to catch up.
These skills can’t be taught in the classroom – but they can be learned through
coaching, mentoring and more personal forms of development. As management
qualifications awarding body NEBS gears up for a major conference on the
subject, we asked its speakers for their opinions.   

Liz
Amos
Adviser, Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership

We
need people who are able to manage and lead. However, right now we probably
need to put more focus on softer leadership skills such as communication and negotiation,
which are hard to deliver through normal training and development systems.

We
need to provide more experiential learning such as coaching and mentoring –
people need to be coached to achieve their best. But it’s very labour-intensive.

While
employers, especially large employers, are doing much more in terms of training
their staff than 20 years ago, I’m sceptical that the training institutions
have changed sufficiently to meet demand. For example, management NVQs have not
had the impact that was hoped because they have imposed a structure that is too
rigid.

Professor
Colin Carnall
Director, Henley Executive Development, Henley Management College

The
real difference between a leader and a manager – at chief executive level – is
the way in which they handle change and ambiguity. It’s not so much about
skills but about knowledge. The leaders of the future must update their
knowledge because business is about constant change. They must also create a
sense of stability amidst that change.

A
leader has to enable the day-to-day work of profit and loss to go on while
continually shifting the organisation to be able to tackle change.

Tony
Robinson
Chief executive, Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative

We
need leaders and managers. Entrepreneurs regard leadership skills as more
important – management skills they can buy in.

The
biggest problem is that a lot of management training does not equip people for
today’s business agenda. Many MBAs are too focused on business processes and
organisational structures, when the most important thing about leadership is
developing relationships with people.

Business
needs leaders who can take risks, innovate and charter new markets. This
especially applies in the IT and new media sectors. We have to seek new opportunities
and go for them. For this we need to develop communication that is genuinely
two way, which means developing open, innovative cultures.

Ruth
Spellman
Chief executive, Investors in People

People
get hyped up about the difference between leadership and management. Very good
management is probably at the leadership end of the spectrum. But no leader is
effective unless he or she has followers – so it’s about having a vision for
the organisation and getting people to go with you.

Good
leaders enable people to function and give their best. The skills they need are
the soft ones – communication and listening. Leadership is about being able to
use the ideas the organisation generates.

Paul
Iles
Professor of HRD , Liverpool Business School

To
some extent we need everyone to display leadership behaviours, such as
creativity and innovation, but basically organisations need both leaders and
managers.

However,
only a few can be good at both and there’s no quick answer to identifying who’s
a leader and who’s a manager. It comes down to analysing their track record and
using interviews and assessment centres to find out who has potential.

You
can’t turn leaders into managers or managers into leaders unless they have that
potential. But there are ways of helping people to become better managers or
leaders. Unfortunately, training provision is not necessarily up to the task.
It’s driven by qualifications rather than content or even process. The problem
with management training is that it’s the ticket at the end that counts.

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