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A Good Manager Will Always Be a Good Leader Essay Sample

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In this essay I will demonstrate how a good manager _can_ often be a good leader, but why I also believe that explicit differences in characteristics; attitudes and methods prove them to be unique. I will do this by firstly, defining what I feel a good manager is, and what I feel a good leader is. In doing this, I will compare and contrast the two concepts in order to finally draw conclusive similarities and distinctions between the two.

American philosopher James Burnham (1941) christened the post-“industrial revolution” epoch in the title of his book; “The Managerial Revolution”1. In contrast to the bygone period in which the primary economic progress lay in technological progress, Burnham emphasised that the “contemporary era” depended heavily on human resources- on the leadership skills of men and women to “impel economic development” with their direction and co-ordinating of others’ individual efforts in the business of living. There has been an evident ‘re-invention’, as such, of the term management. It has thus become increasingly difficult to successfully define it. Whereas traditionally, French industrialist Henri Fayol’s (1916) humble description of one who “plans, organises, co-ordinates and controls” has dominated our perceptions, today we take a more precise and realistic approach to the meaning of this title.

Leadership too lacks a definite, universally accepted meaning, except of course in the literal sense of the adjective leading; “to show the way by going with … to serve as the means of reaching a place” (Hanks, 1986). Clegg et al. (2008) = describes it as a term that is “one of the most over-theorised, over-researched, and empirically messy areas of management and organisation”. The issue with leadership is not that the meaning has evolved (like management), but that the term is “tossed around promiscuously”, and is used to describe a vast array of characteristics, that might only vaguely represent the true fundamental aspects of leadership. An age-long controversy arises here when we ask is leadership a science or an art? Can it be learned, or must one be born with it?

Clegg describes the “trait theorists” as those who believe leadership to be a “question of unique traits that people are born with”. The “behaviourist school” on the other hand, defines it as a “specific way of behaving that makes you either an effective or ineffective leader.” As Drucker = said, “mathematicians are born, but anyone can learn trigonometry”. In essence, leadership can mean whatever you want it to mean, as there is such a broad spectrum of thought and varied opinion surrounding it.

In my opinion leadership “is the power of one individual to guide the actions of another. Leaders are individuals who guide others toward the accomplishment of goals in such a way that followers want to follow” (Dailey). It is an attribute commonly found in those whose positions, titles or status are regarded as being ‘above’ others. Regarded widely as a virtue, it is often associated with greatness, kindness and integrity. An interesting point that is worth making here is that although we often confine ‘leaders’ to a narrow domain of humane, moral individuals, this is rarely the case. Imagine a power hungry chief executive of a large corporation that sells and imports inconspicuous nuts and bolts to third world countries, despite being fully aware that they will be melted down and used to make weapons for child soldiers. Who is to say that he cannot inspire and motivate a team of employees?

In, “Managing Today!” Robbins (1997) simply classifies a manager as “someone who oversees the activities of others”. This tells us more about one of the primary functions of a manager, that is, the governing relationship with his subordinates. It is important to note that there is no line or partition drawn between, say, foremen and supervisors, they are not separate entities. They both function in conjunction with one another. According to Stewart (1991) in “Managing Today & Tomorrow”, a manager is described as “anyone above a particular level in an organisation”. She emphasises the idea of “grading” managers in a hierarchical sense. That is to say, a manager is someone who people lower in the chain of command report to. In this instance we would think of say, a factory, where coherent distinctions can be seen between employees.

At the ‘bottom’ level, we see the ground workers at an assembly line, whose tasks require limited skill and who exercise little to no power. Above these are the foremen, who have the responsibility of delegating tasks among the workers. The supervisor (the manager in this case) then overlooks the activities of those beneath him. Although he may not produce anything of net value to the organisation, as such, he plays a vital role in the running of the company. Therefore we _could_ say that a manager is basically “above” others in an organisation. This is true to a certain extent, but it is a very narrow definition for such a very broad term.

Similarly, leadership involves superiority over others. Clegg (2008) describes leadership as “the process of directing, controlling, motivating and inspiring staff towards the realisation of … goals”. It is the method in which this ‘superiority’ is achieved however, that distinguishes it from management. A manager is _placed_ above his subordinates; he relies mostly on control and discipline in order to maintain his status. A leader on the other hand, inspires trust in his employees, they are his followers. Where a manager sees resources, a leader sees people. This is partly due to rational behaviour. Let’s take the Irish electoral system; ‘Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote’ (PRSTV) as an example. One of the most common critiques of this system is that it causes T.D.s (the managers in this instance) to focus too heavily on constituency duties.

This is because unlike FPTP (First Past the Post) where a ‘winner takes all’ approach is adopted, in order to ensure that they will be re-elected, each individual T.D. must maintain and inspire trust in the citizens of his area, Dáil duties are often neglected as a result. Naturally we would assume that this is rational thinking, but what about the ‘greater good’? Are members of the Dáil Chambers not supposed to represent the entire country’s needs? This is where leaders and managers differ; let us take the Taoiseach as the ‘manager’ in this case. He is the head of his party; the head of government, his power is bestowed upon him. He is responsible for the actions of his subordinates, or party members, and therefore has to ensure that tasks are being completed, budgets are being monitored, and legislation is being implemented. Essentially, he gets the job done. The Taoiseach could be seen to be ‘doing things right’, whereas the T.D.’s are ‘doing the right thing’.

In my research of the subject, I found that Henry Mintzberg’s definition, published in the “Harvard Business Review” exemplifies what I believe a ‘good’ manager is. I would like to refer to his interpretation in order to fully understand the term. He describes the manager as “the heart of the organisation… (Who) plays a complex, intertwined combination of interpersonal, informational and decisional roles”. In total, Mintzberg outlines ten managerial roles, three so-called “interpersonal”, which give rise to three “informational” roles which allow a manager to adopt four “decisional” roles.

Mintzberg’s studies revealed that C.E.O.’s devoted 12% of their time to ceremonial duties, while 17% of their mail dealt with acknowledgements and requests “related to their status”. This “figurehead” role is often overlooked, but is a vital component of the role of a manager. But is there any real benefit to an organisation when, say, a valued employee is presented with a crystal vase upon retirement? Surely this is irrational behaviour as there is no real incentive to do so? In “Management Challenges for the 21st Centaury”, Drucker refers to a law of physics to prove this point; “Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction. This is as true for human beings as it is for inanimate objects.” He claims that mere idiosyncrasies and simple mannerisms are essential for business. Leadership skills are clearly evident in the interpersonal role, ambassadors and representatives are often seen to ‘lead’ those whom they stand for.

The “leader” role is seen both directly, for instance, in hiring and training staff, and indirectly, in “motivating and encouraging” his employees. In describing the leader role of a manager, Mintzberg outlines a distinct similarity between management and leadership when he states that: “Formal authority vests him (the manager) with great potential power; leadership determines in large part how much of it he realises”. This shows that the greatness of a manager is dependent on his leadership skills.

Mintzberg’s study also found that managers spend almost half their time (44%) dealing with people outside of the immediate organisational unit. The manager is seen as the “liaison” between the subordinates and superiors, and also between the company and those outside it.

Three informational roles stem form the interpersonal roles. Mintzberg claims that “(a manager) may not know everything but he typically knows more than any member of his staff”. This emphasises the importance of knowledge in an ever-evolving business environment, where information asymmetries can be the deciding factor in whether or not an organisation will break even. A good manager will monitor; collect; interpret and distribute information in such a way that all interest bodies are sufficiently informed. With reference to the previous example of the factory, ground workers will want to receive feedback and praise regarding work performance and supervisors will want to be trusted with valued information and important tasks.

On a grander scale, directors and share-holders require information from managers regarding end-of-year accounts; profits and deficits; their evaluations of the firm’s progress and their estimations of future prospects. Consumers, interest groups and governing bodies on the other hand, need to know that the company is abiding by tax and labour regulations, that they are conducting ‘eco-friendly’ business, and, considering the current economic downturn, that they are very much aware of the concerns of the work force.

As important as the informational role may be, information is not, as Mintzberg describes, “an end in itself”, it is “the basic input into decision making”. Therefore, when making decisions, a good manager will assess all relevant data and information. The “entrepreneurial” decision role of the manager, as described in the text, is necessary to ensure the survival of the company in a turbulent market. The roles of “resource allocator” and “disturbance handler” on the other hand apply to the risk assessment attitude of the manager. Efficient managers will minimise the downside risk, whereas leaders will optimise the upside opportunity. As Bruce Lynn says: “Leadership without Management yields steps forward, but as many if not more steps backwards. Management without Leadership avoids any step backwards, but doesn’t move forward.”

I have often associated the “Theory X & Y” developed be Douglas McGregor (1960) with the idea of the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Theory X, whereby managers “assume employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can”, resembles using a ‘stick’ or forcing employees to perform, controlling and telling them what to do. Theory Y, however, “assumes employees may be ambitious; self-motivated; anxious to accept greater responsibility, and exercise self-control, self-direction, autonomy and empowerment.” This allows managers to give employees freedom to be productive, to follow their lead and prosper on their own terms, i.e. the ‘carrot’ approach. The latter theory is often regarded as the more effective one, and most certainly resembles what I believe a good manager is. I think that theory Y describes good management supported by good leadership skills. In my reading of “New Patterns of Management”, (Rensis Likert, 1961)

I found a distinct relationship between leadership and management. In the research he conducted on organisational performance, (ranging from supervisory behaviour and attitudes, to supportive managerial behaviour and productivity) he acknowledged the relevance and importance of the quality of leadership. “For every criterion,” he states, “such as productivity, absence, attitudes, and promotability (sic) of the supervisor, the same basic patterns of leadership yielded the best results.” He proved that leading, in the literal sense of the word, and giving a good example are much more important influencing results than “attitudes towards the company and interest in the job itself”.

Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the distinction between management and leadership is that of Harvard’s John Kotter. In his article “What Managers Really Do” (1999) he emphasises the difference between the two while constantly reminding us that they are interconnected: “two distinct but complementary systems of action.” He outlines the fundamental differences between the two by contrasting their roles and functions; where managers “plan”, leaders have “visions”. A manager “implements capacity networks through a well-organised hierarchy” while a leader has a “complex web of aligned relationships” to handle. Managers execute through “control” as opposed to “inspiration” by leaders. Managerial work, according to Kotter, is increasingly becoming a leadership task, and leadership has becoming essential to good managers. He claims the “the primary force behind successful change of any significance is (leadership) not (management)”and that without sufficient leadership, “the possibility of mistakes increases greatly and the probability of success decreases accordingly”.

Warren Bennis describes a concise difference in the definition of management and leadership when he states; “There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, and to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.”

In conclusion, I believe that I have sufficiently defined what I feel a good manager and a good leader represent. Having compared and contrasted them I feel that a balance needs to be struck between the two, as both are required for effective corporate growth: leadership risk creates opportunities while management strictness turns them into tangible results. Although there is an evident overlap in the two, there are plenty of differences between them, and I firmly believe that they are not to be equated, and are unique in their individual meanings.

REFERENCES

Burnham, James. 1941. “The Managerial Revolution”

Fayol, Henri. 1916.

Hanks, P. 1986. “Collins Dictionary of the English Language: An Extensive Coverage of Contemporary International and Australian English”

Clegg, Kornberger & Pitsis. 2008. “Managing and Organisations: An Introduction into Theory And Practice”

Drucker, Peter F. 1954. “The Practice of Management”

Dailey, Prof. Robert. 19??. “Organisational Behaviour” p7.11

Robbins, Stephen P. 1997. “Managing Today” p.420

Stewart, Rosemary. 1991. “Managing Today & Tomorrow”

Mintzberg, Henry.1975. “Harvard Business Review July & August 1975”

Lynn, Bruce “Leadership” http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader

McGregor, Douglas. 1960.

Likert, Rensis. 1961. “New patterns of Management”

Kotter, John. 1999. “What Managers Really Do”

Bennis, Warren. 1997. “Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader”

 Burnham, James. 1941. “The Managerial Revolution”

 Fayol, Henri. 1916.

 Hanks, P. 1986. “Collins Dictionary of the English Language: An Extensive Coverage of Contemporary International and Australian English”

 Clegg, Kornberger & Pitsis. 2008. “Managing and Organisations: An Introduction Into Theory And Practice”

 Drucker, Peter F. 1954. “The Practice of Management”

 Dailey, Prof. Robert. 19??. “Organisational Behaviour” p7.11

 Robbins, Stephen P. 1997. “Managing Today” p.420

 Stewart, Rosemary. 1991. “Managing Today & Tomorrow”

 Mintzberg, Henry.1975. “Harvard Business Review July & August 1975”

 Mintzberg, Henry.1975. “Harvard Business Review July & August 1975”

 Drucker, Peter F. 1954. “The Practice of Management”

 Mintzberg, Henry.1975. “Harvard Business Review July & August 1975”

 Lynn, Bruce “Leadership” http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader

McGregor, Douglas. 1960.

 Likert, Rensis. 1961. “New patterns of Management”

 Kotter, John. 1999. “What Managers Really Do”

Bennis, Warren. 1997. “Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader”

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