Minggu, 25 November 2007

Notes on Leadership

Is management significantly different from leadership? Or is it necessary distinguishing between the two concepts? Some people believe that differentiating the definition between the two concepts is not only useless but also wasting your time. For these people management or leadership is just a label; what really matters is: are you doing things that an effective leader or manager should do?

For those who subscribe to the notion that management, to some extent, is different from leadership, one way of contrasting between management and leadership is usually by comparing the definition and the elements of the two concepts. The problem is: It is almost impossible to define management and leadership in one single comprehensive expression.

Management is traditionally defined by: “Getting things done through the effort of other people”. So, what do managers do? They draft plans, they make decisions, they allocate resources, and they direct the activities of others to attain goals. Hence traditionally managers perform four basic management functions: planning, organizing or staffing, directing and controlling. We call these functions as the five basic elements of management.

How about leadership? Leadership is simply defined by: “the art of influencing people to act towards the achievement of the desired goals”. While managers tend to adopt impersonal, if not passive, attitude towards goals, leaders take a personal and active attitude toward goals. Managers tend to view work as an enabling process involving some combination of people, method and procedure to establish strategies and make decisions, whereas leaders work from high-risk positions, concerned with ideas, relate to people in more intuitive and empathic ways. When we talk about leadership’s functions we are normally concerned with: inspiring, sharing, participating, guiding and motivating. These functions are basically known as the elements of leadership.

Another way to differentiate management from leadership is simply by labeling management as “doing things right” whereas leadership as “doing the right things”. The question is: Which one is more important? Well, it depends. Management is about coping with current issues. Good management brings about order and consistency by drawing up plans, designing rigid organization structure, and monitoring results against plans. Many managers, however, are unfortunately too concerned with keeping things on time and on budget and with copying what was done yesterday (and happy if perform 5 percent better than previous year).

Leadership, in contrast, is about coping with change. Leaders establish directions by developing a vision of the future; they align people by communicating this vision and inspiring them to overcome hurdles. Therefore in a well structured organization and less-volatile business environment a good management is sufficient. However, strong leadership is required for an organization undergoing a transformational change, where new innovative ideas and directions for the future are needed by the people in the organization.

Some experts argue that management is different from leadership for other reasons. Management, they propose, is more oriented toward: administration, maintenance, system and structure, short range plans, goals, how to achieve goals, solve current problems, seek compliance, control. Whereas leadership is more oriented toward: innovation, development, people, long range plans, vision for the future, what to be done and why, anticipate future problems, gain commitment, empowerment.

So where do we stand? We will use a broad definition of leadership: the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. The source of this influence may be formal, such as provided by the possession of managerial rank in an organization. Since management positions come with some degree of formally designated authority, a person may assume a leadership role simply because of the position he or she holds in the organization. But keep in mind that not all leaders are managers: nor, all managers are leaders. Just because an organization provides its managers with certain formal authority is no assurance that they will be able to lead effectively. We find that non transactional leadership -- that is, the ability to influence that arises outside the formal structure of the organization – is often as important or more important than formal influence. In other words, leaders can emerge from within a group as well as by formal appointment to lead a group.

Thus, leadership is not forcing what you want just because you happen to have the legitimate power to do so, but rather the art of showing the light, inspiring, giving directions and alternatives to the people you are working with. You may be the formal leader, but the question is do your people feel they are getting the right directions from you. Therefore, one of the most important qualities that a leader should have is long range vision and ability to share the vision with his/her followers. There is no leadership without thinking of the future. I think this is the basic question that a leader should keep asking himself or herself: Am I leading my people toward mutually shared goals or am I just giving orders to them? The word leadership or leader should not be perceived as a “noun”, but rather as a “verb”, that is leading.

In order to be able to effectively lead, first you have to be accepted by your subordinates. Here are some tips for a new leader. A new leader does not necessarily mean a transition from a non-leader position to a leader position, but it can be a transfer from one department, division or branch to another. This formula is also known as “Similar and Different.” Be part of them, be similar enough to get acceptance and membership as well, yet be different enough to add values to the people you are working with. Things a new leader should do when he or she assumes a leadership position:

  1. Study the terrain/frontier, the environment, their values, their expectations.
  2. Let your subordinates know who you are, not what you want.
  3. Do not get tempted to change the existing policies, especially the ones that will drastically and uncomfortably change the old habits. Refrain from asking people to do things that will invite resistance.
  4. Be part of them. Once you get acceptance or “membership” it will be easy to lead them wherever you want.

Effective leadership will gain commitment from your subordinates, not obedience. What we need from subordinates is commitment not obedience. And, what does commitment mean? It means readiness to mobilize as much available energy as possible in the pursuit of common goals, common enterprise.

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