UK: Leaders Inspire, Managers Perspire

Last Updated: 7 August 2001
Article by John Quinton

"It's all rather confusing really ....", Harry Secombe, former and, sadly, now late, Goon.

Most of the Companies I have dealt with in the last 10 years have had weaknesses centred round what has usually been described as, ‘a lack of management experience’. It is usually also the case that they have lacked leadership.

In practice, Leadership and Management are terms used very loosely, often by those who don’t know the, (fundamental), difference between them. Put in business terms, Leadership is what Boards are supposed to provide, and Management is the job of people Boards employ to carry out their policies. But then, Directors are often - and in practice perhaps, are usually - also Managers. ‘Its all rather confusing, really’.

Over-simplifying the difference we could coin a phrase, ‘Leaders inspire, Managers perspire’, as a starting point for the process of reducing the level of confusion - and actually seeing how we improve both leadership and management.

Management can be taught, or so providers of MBA courses think, (even though they confuse Management with Administration - which certainly can be taught.**). There are Businesses, (not to mention the Military), offering ‘leadership’ courses, which, at least so far as those Businesses are concerned, are actually all about team building and not Leadership.

It does not help that the very currency we use to communicate with each other - language, and the meaning of words - has been degraded. The storeman is now a Logistics Manager, the office cleaner a Workplace Hygiene Technician. Everybody in business is now a ‘manager’. And what about a, ‘Director of Rugby’? Perhaps it all started long ago when butchers were first called, ‘Purveyors of Meat’, or rat catchers became, ‘Rodent Operatives’.

However much we degrade a perfectly good language, and no matter to what extent we delude ourselves by changing the meanings of individual words, we still need Real Leaders to Lead and Real Managers to Manage in most business activities. So we do need to know the difference, and how to produce at least some of their qualities in those who run businesses.

Real Leaders.

Hitler might have been evil, but he was also a very successful leader, regardless of the colour of his shirt, and so was Napoleon - though neither was much good at much else.

A soldier who was a rotten shot, a poor rider, 5 foot 4 tall, had an over developed sense of smell, scratched his spots and spoke French with an Italian accent became an Emperor.

Millions died because of Hitler, and a surprisingly large number for him.

And how did they become leaders? Well, they were not born to it, (unlike, perhaps, Wellington or Alexander the Great), but they knew what the people they needed to use wanted for themselves, whether it was riches or salvation, and they made sure they got it.

At a business level that reduces to being aware of your staff’s personal aspirations and creating a pathway to their achievement. Do that and they will, using the degraded currency of the language, die for you. Unfortunately, if you want to be a leader you have to create, at the same time, the wherewithal to acquire the resources to pay the rewards. If you want to be a ‘leader’ without accepting that responsibility go into politics, and not into business. Which brings us to Management.

Real Managers.

Essentially Managers manage people, (Human Resources, no less!), to achieve what is required of them. And people need to be motivated to achieve goals. It is no good just telling them what you want, or yelling. So Managers are also motivators.

They don’t have to be Leaders, and sometimes it is better that they are not. An organisation needs to have its actions directed by reason, not faith, if team objectives are to be realised and the potential of plans fulfilled.

Employees need a sense of purpose just as much as an Employer does, though it will be a different one.

Employers and employees also need to derive satisfaction from what they do - to achieve what is now called ‘self esteem’.

The clues to good management are all here, and there is no mystery or secret ingredient. At least, I have not found one after looking for it for 45 years.

Reduced to its essentials the technique for good management requires the ability to communicate - not by writing instructions, though they will also be necessary - but by treating subordinates as fellow humans rather than as some kind of humanoid sub-species. Do that and the rewards will be handsome. It is amazing how many great ideas lie in the minds of those who are, ‘not paid to think’, and how easy it is to access them with the right approach*.

Employees worry about their job security. Like all of us they have obligations they are responsible enough to want to meet. So the first thing they need is a sense of security. Give them whatever support they, (or you), think they need to do their jobs properly.

Good management arises from good relationships, and cannot be forced. Most people need to feel a sense of ‘team’, regardless of whether they are at the top or the bottom of the heap, and if you don’t create one for them which binds them to you they will join one anyway - which might work against you.

Accept that employees are people with legitimate interests other than in working for/with you. They all have homes to go to. ‘How was the holiday?’ ’Is your wife better now?’ This is not intrusion on their privacy; it is natural interest - simple humanity - and will be valued as such.

If you want somebody to do something for you, bear in mind the above consolidated wisdom that can be reduced still further to:

Explain what you want your employee/subordinate to do, why you want it done and when it must be completed. If he asks for help give it. But don’t tell him how to do it unless he asks specifically for that. (But after an appropriate interval check that he has done it!)

Footnotes

* I once knew a factory cleaner who had the answer to a major continuous process production problem. The only chance he had to communicate this was to the Group Chairman who, in the break during the crisis meeting convened to find, (but failing to find), the answer, wandered onto the shop floor and fell into conversation with him when he needed a light for his cigarette. The cleaner mentioned that, during heavy rain, the flat roof over the dry powder hopper leaked a little. This is merely one silly, (and true), story of this kind - which is repeated regularly, manifesting itself in different ways in different companies.

** A monkey, ‘Administers’, a barrel organ when he turns its handle. The monkey needs to be, ‘Managed’.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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