Leadership vs Management

Where have all the leaders gone? Why most companies now only have senior and top management roles

Leadership vs Management

Leadership vs management debate have its own merits and demerits. In this world, we have millions of businesses and entrepreneurs. Most of them started small from a single idea and their own staunch belief in it. As their companies grew over the years and started earning more and more, they started hiring more and more to maintain the growth and profitability. 

But during the course, the importance of why they started in the first place, gets faded out, the exuberance of the original founders and leaders gets in the background and the inspiration of the original idea and the role of the passion and the importance of the ‘why’ starts taking a backseat. 

More of the practical transactional nature takes the more dominant place and the company starts becoming big robotic machines with daily routines, systems, processes. The new entrants usually only happen to know their JDs and SOPs and not more than that. Thereby clearly winning the management oriented style in the Leadership vs Management debate.

Such companies if they continue, start eroding the soul from the body and it may lead eventually to mediocre results. The original founders and leaders start growing old and the new board of directors come in action and the new CEO, COO, CFO and CMO are hired for the purpose of managing the existing growth and increasing it.

Internal Introspection – Leadership vs Management

Internal Introspection – Leadership vs Management

On one hand, it all seems good, and this is how the world moves on and the science of execution works. But when the companies desire having the collective synergy but on the contrary, many a time, the individual siloed energies seem getting nowhere. In such a situation, the companies may have to do a lot to find where it is not going right.

The role of the new leadership (C-level) is fast converting into being just regular managers of the daily business affairs. The high end trainings for ‘quality of leadership’ are not even serving any major good to the companies. Every CEO, COO, CFO & CMO thinks that they just have to manage well (not lead well), I wonder that many may still not know the true difference between a leader and a manager. Probably, only left in the debates for Leadership vs Management.

True Spirit of Leadership vs Management

True Spirit of Leadership

When people truly follow leaders, it is not because they have to, but because they want to. But this is far from the truth and the real reality. Companies are trying to use more of the word ‘senior management’, and less of the word ‘leaders’. Why? because, everyone likes to exert the authority and have lost the true definition of what true leadership is about. 

When Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech in August, 1963, he attracted thousands of people to listen to what he had to say, and interestingly, he did not have any plan, nor any execution details and SOPs. He only had a dream, a vision and a belief. And he could instill that belief in others and make them work for the cause and everyone else also shared the same belief, vision and dream from then onwards.

The first principle of any leader is the role and importance of first asking the ‘Why’ question, why everyone does what they do. Yes. The harsh truth is that most of the companies’ staff is only doing 9-5 jobs for their own livelihood and waiting for their paychecks at the end of the month. I also will suggest that companies should conduct such surveys periodically.

Transferring the vision, mission, and a dream from the top to the bottom is a long journey but the right and an important journey. Those very few who go through such a journey (like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Disney, General Electric, Honey Well, Amazon, Walmart, KFC, McDonald’s), we should know it well, that in such companies the leadership truly plays its role to its core spirit.  And they truly differentiate from just being a manager.

It is certainly not good business if you have all the good managers and no leaders in your company. Yes, I am talking about all the heads of the big departments, who they may call them senior or top management, why don’t they call them senior leaders of the company (not only calling but making them act like leaders).

Benefits are in the ‘Change Management’

Woman with her team behind

If you take these industry knowledge tips and do the changes in your structure, then you can start seeing the benefits. In that case, the Chairman or the Board’s role will not be to hire the senior/top management, rather they should hire the right leaders in the first place. Such leaders who should know the company’s dream and a vision and who are adept, skilled and trained to mentor and instill such a dream and vision in hundreds or thousands of their staff down the line. They don’t have to act like managers. But they may have all the freedom to hire the good managers who should be immaculately trained in the science of execution; the SOPs, systems, measurement of results, trouble shooting and all that stuff. But please do differentiate between a leader and a manager in your organizational structure. You should clearly understand the pros and cons of the leadership vs management mantra. Do not erase the line between what leadership is about and what senior management is about. They entirely work in different ways. 

The business sector can grow exponentially if they do understand the basic difference between a leader and a manager. The EFQM Quality Award Model in Europe or any other Quality Award, their first criteria score is on the leadership points, and then they move to the strategy, execution and the results.

Keep The Flame Alive!

All executives walking together

In the business world, it is very important to keep the flame alive from where the original founders started having a dream. It is the responsibility of the next leaders to keep that dream and vision alive and to instill it downline.  It is not enough to sit in the office just to have functional meetings and getting to know where we are and where we are going. These are the tasks of the senior management. Yes. I agree that the leader does need to be apprised about all this, but his or her key role is something more to it. 

Attributes of True Leadership

Staff explaining the attributes of a true leader

If you have read or listened earlier about the leadership vs management debate, you should appreciate that the term 'leadership' precedes the term 'management'.

  • The leader has to develop his or her own personality in such a way that people should be encouraged to come to him or her and bounce off ideas and to share their ways of doing new things. 
  • The leader should be proactive instead of reactive.
  • He should be providing more ideas and ways.
  • He should be providing more rewards for the deserving ones, and more encouragements for the areas of improvement. 
  • He should be the one to embed and encourage the continuous learning.
  • He should be one to have the patient hearing and listening skills. 
  • He should be one who should be able to mentor the downline, support them in times of need personally and professionally. 
  • He should be one who should act as a role model.
  • He should be one who people should really want to follow, not because that he is the CEO or head of the department with powers to fire you anytime.

Summing Up Leadership vs Management Debate

Man smiling and summing up leadership vs management debate

Yes. I guess you may find all this difficult and impractical somehow concerning the leadership vs management debate. Actually it is, and you know what, that is the reason, most of the companies on the earth, don’t have the concepts of leadership forums and having divisional leaders anymore. They only have senior management positions, as I shared earlier. Practically speaking, the differentiating line is getting dimmer. In case, you want to get the ground level viewpoint of this debate from the bottom up, you can also check out the manager vs leaders article at mindtools.

The road of brilliant business success is laden with hard work and patience. And it all starts from the top leadership to bottom. (And I really mean the true leadership). If any company can do that, it can certainly make a big difference in the results. And the 'leadership vs management' debate will prove that leadership stays at its level and the management stays at its level, both having their own essential functions in place with solid line in between.

About The Author

Zeerik Ahmad

I am a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) with about 25+ years of corporate experience in diverse areas in Pakistan and abroad. Now, I write, blog, consult and mentor individuals and businesses to help improve their marketing communications and branding through better education and latest knowledge as well as encouraging them to use digital technology to their advantage.

You can contact me here