Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thoughts on Leadership & Management

There has, of late, been a strong emphasis on leadership in social care but at yesterday’s SCA Conference (which I  followed avidly  on Twitter thanks to the tweets of @cpeanose) the issue of the importance of management was raised. So I thought it would be a  good opportunity to reflect  on Leadership and Management.

Leadership is about people skills. The good leader is one who sets out a vision and inspires and motivates their team to achieve that vision. The leader is the role model who sets the example for others to follow and leadership is about effective communication using the skills of listening and giving effective feedback.

Management, on the other hand, is about the tasks. The good manager organises workloads, ensures targets are set and outcomes are met. Effective management is about assessing, evaluating and planning.

Having laid that out it must be said the truly effective leader is one who is a good leader AND a good manager. In a previous blog (Social Care Leadership: Visions, Targets and Goals) I stated the importance of setting out a vision as one aspect of being a good leader. Yet equally important is achieving that vision through targets and goals and that is where effective management skills are required. The manger needs to take the vision and break it down into achievable steps, to set the goals that will achieve the final vision and assess what is needed to reach each step. The leader then needs to come back to the fore and  communicate those objectives to the team in a way that  motivates and inspires them to achievement. The manager returns to assess progress and evaluate what further action the ‘leadership’ side needs to take.

The important issue is the balance of leadership and management skills. By way of illustration I, back in the dim distant past when I left school, worked for a national menswear retailer where I had the opportunity to work with a number of branch managers. One I recall was a brilliant people person, he could sell snow to eskimos and he could inspire the staff to up their game. The problem was he was hopeless at managing, you needed to discreetly stay close to him to ensure that what he promised was actually delivered because he would be immediately forget that promise when the customer was out of sight. Another manager I worked with would, literally, hide from people. He would stay in his small office doing paperwork or live in the stockroom checking deliveries and his level of communication with the staff was minimal leaving it others to discuss how we stood in terms of targets etc.

A truly effective leader is a person who can completely balance those leadership and management skills, of course, in the real world such perfection is unlikely and this is where the real skill of leadership comes in.

The true skill of leadership is recognising the qualities and short comings in your own ability and organising your team to counter any deficiencies. Someone whose people oriented skills out balance the task oriented skills needs to acknowledge this and be prepared to delegate some of the management tasks to the team member most capable in that area. Similarly where the balance lies the other way it is important to identify the best communicator in the team and allow them to help motivate and inspire the team towards goals.

Leadership and management are not separate entities but are two sides of the same coin and to  achieve real success  those ‘in power’ must endeavour to achieve a balance between the two.