We need leaders, not managers

07 June 2021, 09:04 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

I’ve mentioned before that not many people can give me the name of someone when asked at interview who has inspired them most from their previous work life. This is because most people have only experienced management not leadership.

What’s the difference?

There are many answers to that question, but to over-simplify, managers are those keeping order in a traditional hierarchical command-and-control operation. Their main function is to ensure maximum productivity from their teams and to ensure instructions from the top are carried out throughout the organisation.

Nothing wrong with that, you might say. And many of these managers are decent, well-intentioned people wanting the best for their people, both in a work and life sense. There are also those for whom status and power are far too important, and the old system we have operated within has almost encouraged that. Those who have been “in it for themselves” have often been the ones given pay rises and promotion.

My intention is not to denigrate the well-meaning managers amongst us but the system they operate within. It is broken, and no amount of good managing in a mechanistic, system-based modus operandi will make the system right.

It is time to look at our organisations and businesses differently, and to stop viewing them as pyramids where the people at the top are more important, but as an organism where all aspects are as important as each other. In our own bodies, is the liver less important that our hand? No, both are important, just performing different functions.

Within this more fluid model, the leaders are equipping, enabling, and serving their people to bring out the best in them. They will expect the best ideas to come from all over the business with as many coming from the shop floor as from the boardroom. They won’t be the kind of people who need to have the glory for themselves, but will rejoice when others, whom they have helped, are rewarded for what they have done. They won’t be the kind of people who expect to be paid four times or more the salary of others in the organisation.

It is these leaders who inspire us because they want the best for us from deep within their hearts. It is these leaders who will make a huge difference in our lives and who we will look back on fondly many decades later.

Being that kind of inspiring leader does involve character change and a shaking off of old ways. To read and be challenged around 50 characteristics of good compassionate leadership, do read or listen to my new book, The Fourth Bottom Line.

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