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22 Mar, 2009

Thoughts On The Leadership – Management Debate

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Executive Coaching Articles

Coaching Blog - Leadership

When my daughter returned to her job in customer services after a 12-month break, she was told that she’d have to wear a manager’s jacket since no other uniforms were available.

She was frequently mistaken for a manager because of her uniform and began to observe the behaviour of the managers and team leaders around her, and question some of the behaviours she observed.

For me, as a director of a leadership training and consultancy company, this was fascinating stuff. How much information had she learned from me? How much was her innate curiosity? How much due to her research skills from her time at university? What was her perception of the challenges facing her managers? What would she do to ensure that she received the leadership she needed and to play her part in providing leadership for others new to the team?

The discussion began; are we talking management or leadership? What is the difference? My personal preference is for the definition: ‘People are led, things are managed’. When we talk about people, we talk leadership and when we talk about their tasks, we talk management. The challenge seems to be the blurring of these two distinct roles.

An often-asked question is, ‘Leaders – are they born or made?’ Looking to leadership models to help unpick this question, they seem to share a flaw – it’s not about leadership style, but the style they use, and how they use it in each individual situation.

The Ken Blanchard Company offers a simple model called ‘Situational Leadership’ and his latest work adapts this model to work for Self Leadership. In his book Self-Leadership and The One Minute Manager (William Morrow, 2005), Blanchard speaks of ‘Discovering the Magic of No Excuses’. His assertion that ‘A leader is anyone who can give you the support and direction you need to achieve your goal’ is exactly where, as coaches, we would wish our clients to be – self-aware and taking full responsibility for their own lives.

Blanchard identifies three skills of a self-leader:

• Challenge assumed constraints.

‘Ultimately, it’s in your own best interest to accept responsibility for getting what you need to succeed.’

• Celebrate your points of power (knowledge power, position power, task power, personal power and relationship power)

‘The only way in which anyone can lead you is to restore to you the belief in your own guidance.’

• Collaborate for success.

‘There is magic in diagnosing your development level and getting the direction and support you need to achieve your goal.’

My daughter’s company had been taken over while she had been off work. There was a lot of uncertainty for the customer service team and its leaders. They were unsure and needed to use the team’s knowledge and task power to ensure that they weren’t ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’.

The first role of a leader is to build trust and relationships, to involve all employees in the company vision and to share company values in the hope that the existing team will align with them and those who feel unable to do this are supported to move on. This is delivered mostly through an induction package based on their individual needs and regular opportunities to feedback to a mentor, especially in the first few weeks. In my daughter’s case, it would be wrong to assume that because the previous company had employed her she knew the new organisation’s vision and understood the changes that had been introduced. Her induction would require care as she would have high competence for some tasks and could be left to independently carry out these tasks, but low competence for others where changes had been made that she was unaware of, and needed to be given specific direction to develop competency.

As coaches, we lead our clients through a process of self-awareness and change through our use of powerful questioning and powerful listening. Each of us, coach and client, needs to have self leadership so that we can manage all the different areas of the life that we are choosing to live, to know the points of our own power and to know at which time we need to take action and gain the support of a significant other.

By Jan Campbell

1 Response to "Thoughts On The Leadership – Management Debate"

1 | Colin Williams

April 8th, 2009 at 4:30 pm


Very good text about a highly emotive subject. The leadership / management debate has continued for years and in my opinion will continue indefinitely.

I was fortunate to be taught Situational Leadership in San Diego at the Centre for Leadership Studies by Ken Blanchards mentor and the original author Dr Paul Hersey. I am now a Situational Leadership authorised trainer. If you get the chance its worth doing it. Not only is it a week in lovely San Diego, but a chance to hear first hand the views of someone who has helped to shape management / leadership theory over the last 40 years.

And back to your article, I think there is no right answer. The outcome required will determine the style and techniques required to realise a successful outcome. So many factors play on this in many cases an amalgam of leadership and management will be used. What comes with experience is better use of the timing of the intervention, the hardest thing to learn or teach.


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