Are we so focused on leadership today that we have forgotten that talented managers are also needed?

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Over the last two weeks I have received five emails from various organisations and promoters offering conferences/seminars on leadership, its importance and relevance for today, and of course why I should attend.

These emails started me thinking about when the last time was that I received an email invitation to a management conference. I can’t recall.

One could conclude being a manager is no longer popular.

I have been on the planet long enough to remember that in my early roles I reported to a manager. In fact, thirty five years ago, when I was doing undergraduate business studies, I remember the five principles of management that Blake and Mouton espoused which were planning, leading, organising, allocating, and controlling.

Hill and Lineback[1] confirm that it was in the early 90’s that leadership came to prominence because it was believed that managers did not have the knowledge, skill, or experience, to lead change and innovation.

Marcus Buckingham in his work on developing a strength-based approach to leadership and management says the two disciplines, while separate systems, are inextricably linked as they drive towards the same outcomes: people engagement results, business performance, and sustainability. The question is always in what proportions are both disciplines required as there very few people who have a role that is purely focused on leadership.

Opinions and views on what managers do are many and varied, however our belief is a manager’s focus needs to be on driving productivity and how to turn the talent of each individual in their team into performance. Accepting this premise there are three questions managers need to ask themselves daily:

  • Do the people for whom I am accountable have the opportunity to do what they do best every single day they are at work?
  • Does each person know specifically what’s expected of them in their role?
  • Is every person committed to delivering quality outcomes?

Without managers in an organisation, who will:

  • Set individual goals with clarity, emphasis and priority.
  • Implement strategy with capability to make tactical adjustments in response to a range of challenges that appear.
  • Organise and allocate resources – people, time, money and materials – to co-ordinate effort.
  • Develop the people in their respective teams.
  • Apply critical thinking to solve problems.
  • Make decisions and make the tough calls.
  • Negotiate.
  • Drive continuous improvement.
  • Frame policy, set standards.
  • Provide constructive feedback when outcomes are not met.
  • Measure performance.
  • Resolve conflict.
  • Build resilience.
  • Hold people accountable for what they commit to do.

I suspect focus on leadership will continue for the foreseeable future, however spare a thought for management, as both are essential for profitable sustainable growth.

Businesses need the leader’s optimism to navigate the change maze. Nevertheless, little will be achieved without the manager’s focus and resilience to execute the strategies needed to achieve the required outcomes within the agreed timeframes.

Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.


[1] December 2011 HBR Blog “I’m A Leader, Not a Manager”