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Leadership and management are different, surprise, surprise. They require different skills sets, they utilise different tools and they occupy different domains of thinking and behaviour.
So, why are the two often mentioned in the same breath? And how do they work together to form a cohesive unit?
The leadership domain is usually depicted at the top of a traditional leadership pyramid. The diagram is a typical illustration of leadership and management layers and how they relate to one another:
What do you notice? The first thing is that the domain of “Leader” is given prominence over the domain of “Manager.” The higher you go, the further away you travel from the ground. The assumption is that, as a leader, you concern yourself less with day-to-day activities and focus more on making “strategic” decisions that determine the direction the group you’re leading is headed.
You have to climb the mountain, mastering each level before you ascend to the next level. This is the assumption, and generally in business, this is the way things go, right?
This works if you accept that the acquisition of a leadership position follows a linear trajectory, and if you simply go to work developing each of these areas, you will become a leader, too.
But what if you looked at it from a different perspective? Try this on for size.
Imagine leadership as the internal fuel that powers the management of yourself and others. Imagine leadership as the catalyst that gets you out of bed every morning, commuting into work and fulfilling on the goals, objectives, strategy and tactics all designed to produce the results you desire.
How does this alter your view of leadership?
Can you begin to see that leadership is not limited to those appointed to leadership positions? In fact, real leaders appoint themselves, and they do so by creating and clarifying the four leadership principles:
Recently, I have seen online discussion about shared leadership qualities at different levels - organisation, industry, even country. It’s been a pretty typical approach to leave this type of thinking to the “leaders” appointed to look after society’s best interests. What a mistake that is! In doing so, we now find ourselves in a position of being led by people whose integrity is constantly being scrutinised, criticised and challenged.
It could be argued that their leadership leaves a lot to be desired. I would argue, though, that the whole idea of leadership itself is in transition. Given the vast variety of interests that leaders need to consider, the job of gathering people together under one purpose, vision, mission and set of values is HUGE, so huge that it may, in fact, be futile.
That doesn’t mean that you should give up on your leadership ideals. In fact, the opposite is true. The opportunity for would-be leaders is to look less to an outside force for direction, and instead look within for guidance. In this instance, integrity, a value increasingly associated with brilliant leadership, means being faithful and true to one’s own conscience.
Let’s take the recent issue with the Labour Party conference. Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time advocate of peace, has banned Saudi Arabia from attending this year’s Labour Party conference (read today’s article in the Independent for more information). Instead of “playing politics” by placating the Saudi government, who have invested £3bn in British arms since 2015, Corbyn remains firm in his leadership vision of peace and in protest against Saudi Arabia’s long history of terrorism in the Middle East, the most recent being the crisis in Yemen.
He is so clear of and so committed to his purpose, vision, mission and values that he’s willing to do what very few British leaders - very few world leaders, in fact - have been willing to do, and that is to sacrifice money for the sanctity of all people, not just the welfare of the people at home.
It’s his commitment to his personal leadership stand that drives his actions, giving meaning to even the most mundane tasks. He doesn’t just turn up to crank the handle. He enters into the job with heart, soul and clear conviction.
The upshot is, it’s working. He’s had the ear of young adults since he became leader of The Labour Party, and now certain media outlets, once eager to bash him for being a “loony Leftie,” regard him as someone to be trusted and admired. His media profile has transformed since the election, when election rules obliged the media to remove biased reporting. By removing the distorted lens through which he was portrayed, the general public and the media saw him for who he really is - a man of principles.
While the world is in short supply of inspiring leaders, Corbyn, in my view, stands out as someone who doesn’t kiss ass, make ridiculous claims (like Johnson’s £350million “bonus” for public spending once the UK leaves the EU), tell porkies to his colleagues (thank you, Mrs May) or ditch town when the real work starts, like Cameron and Farage.
It’s a refreshing change from the usual machinations, spin and wheeling and dealing we’ve come to expect from politicians. He presents the possibility of purposeful, authentic, trustworthy politics. What a novelty!
Whether or not you agree with his politics, wherever you work, and however you choose to exercise your leadership, study his ascent to Labour leader. It was his leadership that informed his actions and drove his management, qualities in evidence long before he was elected Labour Party Leader.
Powerful leadership arises when you make the choice to step UP with connection, conviction and commitment. You’re the leader you’ve been seeking. Time to give yourself a promotion, methinks!
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