Skip to content

The End of Management as We Know It?

In the past there has been a lot written about the difference between managers and leaders in terms of the people and the roles they perform. Director Jonathan Booth believes that there is little place in the 21st century for ‘management’ and that organisations now need leaders at all levels to survive and thrive.

The distinction that I draw between the process of managing and leading, based on my own experience and reading, is summarised in the following table:

Management PracticesLeadership Characteristics
Task orientedDirection setting
Process focusedOutcome focused
Control consciousPromoting autonomy
One style and pacedVaried / situational

All very familiar I am sure, but to me, it is the Leadership skills that add real value in a business. We manage things such as programs, budgets, contracts, projects and processes, but we should be leading people.

The idea of ‘managing’ people just sounds outdated in the 21st century. Many of us wear both hats, but we need to understand the difference so that we appropriately flex within and between the two roles.

One can hold the title of manager and never actually have staff or employees under their direction but could be ‘managing’ a program, a budget, a project or an enterprise.

However, the people working on these activities need and prefer to be led.

In both small and large, private and public sector, organisations I have worked with there is an increasing focus on promoting the leadership characteristics identified above at all levels of the organisation.

I believe that the challenge now is no longer to try to reconcile the differences between leaders and managers but to promote improved relationships between leaders, at all levels, and their self-managing colleagues.

Leadership at all Levels

To be a leader one needs others whom they can influence or impact in some way (some people call these followers). Leaders can – and do – lead down, across and up. We lead (influence) subordinates, colleagues, team members and our superiors. Leadership can and does happen at every level within an organization.

We need to think of anyone in a position of responsibility within an organisation, (a leader, manager, team leader or supervisor) as a leader and to encourage them to demonstrate these characteristics.

After all, these are proven to engage employees the most – and surely we should be developing leaders to get the most out of our people, rather than to maintain outdated concepts of command and control?

Management is no Longer Enough

‘Management’ implies coping with and maintaining situations as opposed to being progressive and taking things forward. In a world of constant change, if you stay where you are, you will soon be left behind.

Young people entering the workplace now look for portfolio careers. They seek interest, variety, challenge and development. They expect the employer to offer a rewarding role in a supportive organisation that creates opportunities for personal growth.

Established research demonstrates that most of us want to do something with a clear sense of purpose and prefer roles that provide an opportunity to work with greater autonomy in a way that enables us to continually improve and master what we do.

Leaders should inspire employees at all levels to seek opportunities to lead in the truest sense, rather than be pegged into a stifling managing/control hierarchy.

So, who is going to take the lead?

Most senior leaders are aware of this – or at least would understand it if they stopped to think about it. However, here lies the nub of the problem. Established leaders are the people who feel they could lose from breaking down the leadership / management barriers.

Many leaders see themselves having achieved their position in the hierarchy through hard work and naturally want to protect it. This is how ‘them and us’ situations develop between senior leaders, managers and employees – a belief from the top that you have to have done your time and earned your spurs to be one of us.

However, if we look at leadership as a behaviour rather than as a role, it is clear that anyone in a position of responsibility at any level of the organisation could become a leader. To achieve this shift in emphasis, and to benefit from the significant results it will deliver, senior leaders in organisations will truly have to let go and lead.

Journey4 works with a wide range of large and small organisations to transform their people, engagement and culture to drive improved customer service and business performance through better leadership at all levels of the organisation.

For more information on our approach, contact us on 01823 451 199 or complete an enquiry form for a confidential discussion.