Although somewhat cliché, “building leaders of tomorrow” seems to be a common mantra of business schools the world over. Considering the financial melt-down that has kept the world economy in the doldrums for the past 3 years, some might suggest that a focus on leadership is long overdue.
At the same time, it could be argued that the combination of business acumen, coupled with the ability to inspire, is somewhat idealistic in a traditionally pragmatic environment.
Recently, I came across a great piece written by Toor and Ofori (2008) articulating the important differences between leadership – and management.
Toor and Ofori suggest that where managers strive to realize organizational efficiency and effectiveness within the group’s defined parameters, leaders create and sell a vision to those who need to implement it.
With that in mind, I am often struck by the number of mid to upper level management titles on the organizational charts of the many companies I work with around the world. Although managers are necessary for the day to day running of a company, it is seems that senior management, through an apparent lack of creativity, has chosen the path of promotion in title as a form of motivation and reward.
My initial perception of this arrangement is that the meaningfulness of these titles is diminished. Put another way, with such a large number of managers and directors within any company, leadership is lost in a sea of ‘leaders’.
Viewing good management and leadership as synonymous, in my opinion, results in a lack of initiative, and subsequently a lack of corporate strategy and revenue. I believe that initiative separates mediocre leaders and managers from truly great ones, and with so many leadership titles, this necessary ingredient is sadly missing.
Unfortunately, as I have often seen, an organization heavy on management yet operating in a leadership void creates a situation where vision and strategy fail to coincide – ultimately opening the doors to wide ranging risks and threats.
The question every business owner or senior executive needs to answer is: “Is my company being led by managers or by leaders?”
- Do your real leaders possess dynamic interpersonal skills, including communication and relationship building skills?
- Are they focused on building teams and getting results through others?
- Is initiative a defining characteristic of those people?
- Are they clearly utilizing creative ideas and innovation as part of a coherent business strategy with clearly defined goals?
Depending on the answers, it may be time to re-evaluate who is doing the leading in your company.