To Manage or to Lead?

Organisations underestimate the difference between management and leadership. Diane Coolican, Managing Director of Redsky Learning discusses the qualities of true leaders and the importance of effective leadership in guaranteeing a motivated and productive workforce.

Can an individual be a good manager without being a great leader? In my experience, the answer is yes. There is a common quality that separates the best leaders from good managers and this is Emotional Intelligence. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of  Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, tells us the difference between a good leader and a great leader. A great leader understands not only themselves but their teams, the goals that need to be met as well as how a leader’s behaviour can have an impact on others. This group of skills allows a leader to read others most effectively, giving them a deeper understanding of how to ensure their team follows them, in order to guarantee maximum success.

Organisations lacking effective leadership tend to see a number of recurring issues affecting their business, such as a lack of motivation and inspiration, ineffective communication, confusion in vision and a higher than average turnover of staff. It is essential that those with a leadership role understand the difference between ‘managing’ a team and ‘leading’ a team and how to develop a balance between the two. Managing a team is all about ensuring that your company or team is succeeding on an operational level – are you hitting your goals and targets, are people delivering, do employees turn up to work when they are supposed to, do you have enough staff with ample capacity to deliver the work?

However, leadership is something different and goes hand in hand with management to drive success. Leadership is based on providing inspiration and motivation to teams, that is, being a role model, a channel of support for your teams and an advocate for them and their own ambitions and progression. It is only by marrying the two elements that the biggest success stories can happen.

Leadership, like any other quality, comes more naturally to some people than others, yet is vital to the future success of a company. During the recession, companies have been under great strain to make cuts to manpower. A significant trend we have seen across sectors is the removal of a middle level of management, who are traditionally the role models to junior teams and junior management, leaving a gap that has not been completely filled.


To Manage or to Lead?

The removal of this tier was necessary to ensure future prosperity of various industries, but it has had an impact on the sector in the short term. For example, junior managers have greater responsibility and have stepped up to fill the gap of the middle managers, though they may not necessarily have the leadership skills of their predecessors or a role model immediately above them to learn from.

Indeed, the reality is that many junior managers do not realise that they are now role models to junior members of their teams and responsible for leading to success and motivating their teams. Although this was a necessary short term measure for the industry to remain on its feet, we should now look to how companies can revive leadership in their businesses.

We should never underestimate the importance of effective learning and development to ensure that leaders understand the dual role they play and the correlation between this and delivering optimum results.

Leaders can apply some simple techniques to guarantee they are leading their team effectively:

Be clear on expectations and end goals – Without being clear on what it is that you want to achieve in the long term, you can’t expect your team to meet these goals. Sit down with your team frequently to discuss strategy and long term aims.

Feedback – It is important to provide your teams and individual employees with regular, constructive but honest feedback. This will demonstrate your own interest in their development and success as well as discover, on a deeper level, any issues or areas that need focus. Feedback is also vital in your own development. Ask your team to provide feedback on your leadership skills, this will enable you to adapt and grow personally to ensure you are leading effectively.

What are effective motivators for your team – Motivators are essential to actively encourage your team to work to their best ability. These can range from a reward scheme that recognises success and hard work, to arranging activities outside of the office where the team can come together on a social level. It is important that your team has an incentive to deliver the top results.

Relationship Management – It is vital that you demonstrate your role as a senior member of staff but equally important to ensure you are always fair and consider external implications affecting your teams. Ensure you behave the same with all employees on a professional level as favouring particular staff members can alienate other employees, decreasing their work ethic and motivation to provide top results.

Communication – Communication is key to a successful team. It is vital to create an environment where teams feel comfortable to communicate with each other as a group as well as individually. Encourage your team to regularly highlight any concerns or new ideas and demonstrate that you act on these suggestions.