How do you balance the conflicting demands of leadership and management?

9 October, 2019
Leadership and management

Inspiration and control – the yin and yang of organisational success

Have you ever noticed that some organisations start with vigour, vim and fresh ideas and then over time they become staid and stagnant? Eventually, these organisations suffer paralysis of innovation and disintegrate from within. In this article, we discuss the critical need for an organisation’s leadership and management to be correctly balanced.


Leadership and management can be uncomfortable bedfellows

Leadership and management should not be confused. While there may be many similarities between leadership and management, there are some key differences too. The challenge for organisations and their executives is to strike the right balance between these role requirements.

Archetypally, a leader’s key task is to inspire and motivate. Leaders innovate, challenging the status quo. In search of new breakthroughs and competitive edge, a leader is usually willing to take risks. Leaders tend to focus on interpersonal relationships, promoting talent and developing relationships and taking people with them. People follow leaders. In summary, leaders strive to create CONVICTION.

In contrast, an archetypal manager’s key task is to maintain daily operations of the organisation and to create order. Managers generally work to create systems and processes, and ensure compliance with policies and procedures. In summary, managers strive to create COMPLIANCE.

These differences often mean that leadership and management can be uncomfortable bedfellows.  In the role of leader, executives want to know ‘when and how’, while as managers they want to know ‘what and why’.


How leadership and management exist in an organisation’s lifecycle

Leaders exhibit the flair to create. Leaders may see an opportunity to fill a gap in the market, to take an invention to market, develop a new concept, etc. An organisation’s birth is usually innovative and driven with huge amounts of energy. However, its early days are usually chaotic with little structured direction.

This is the point at which a start-up organisation’s founders employ management. Leaders realise that to take the organisation further, it must be managed effectively. Talent needs to be hired and retained, processes need to be put in place and daily operations must be controlled effectively. At this point, we see that leadership and management are working in harmony. The organisation is well-run, but remains innovative, energetic and receptive to change.

The danger at this stage is that leadership becomes complacent. The organisation is on top of its game, and ahead of its competition. It is well-run, but in order to maintain control over operations it becomes increasingly bureaucratic. Innovation becomes stifled and the ability to adapt to new markets is hampered.

Eventually, overemphasis on management causes the company to come to a standstill. The momentum created by leadership fades as people do what they must and no more. Inspirational leadership ignites desire in employees. The desire to go in a specific direction and achieve the vision. When bureaucracy strangles this inspirational force, desire dissipates – and so does the ability to achieve personal and organisational potential.


Leadership and management – the yin and yang of success

Clearly, organisations must have a balance between leadership and management within individuals and teams. They are the yin and yang of a business – seemingly contrary in their nature, but complementary in their execution. Without management, an organisation’s unstructured and energetic approach could produce disastrous results. Without leadership, an organisation will lack the inspiration and vision to drive it forward. In short, in successful organisations, leadership and management coexist:

  • Leadership creates an organisation’s vision, understanding where the organisation is now and where it wants to get to, and engaging people in that vision. Management executes this vision, creating a roadmap and milestone events that will take the team to the objectives of the vision.
  • Leadership inspires personal and team development by helping all to understand their roles in the big picture. Management directs the daily tasks and resources required to achieve the full potential of that big picture.
  • Leaderships challenges the way things are done, encouraging people to innovate and improve. Management establishes guidelines, rules and standards within which people must work.


Is your organisation leading employees with good management?

To keep employees engaged in your business strategy, they must be engaged with your vision and with your core values – the beliefs and principles that help them engage with their roles in the big picture. They must be excited by the vision and understand where it could take them personally. However, employees won’t achieve their potential – and an organisation won’t achieve its potential – if they are not managed effectively. The challenge is to ensure that your organisation is led and managed effectively simultaneously. Do this, and you will develop a competitive advantage.

To understand how our Learning Map could help your employees align their personal goals with your organisation’s business strategy and purpose, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

(To see how putting people in the picture creates a shared vision and helps set a concrete destination, read this case study.)

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