Management Is Not Leadership

"Sometimes you need to be direct and unvarnished."

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Life would be incredibly easy if every time we had a decision to make, we had all the evidence, all the data, and previous case studies to remove risk and doubt. In my time working with the many CEOs I’ve had the privilege to coach, there have only been a few occasions when this was the case. However, for the most part, leaders must make decisions having little information, a tight deadline, high risk, and reputations that could take a dip.

Good leaders will delegate the small stuff, but when the tough calls come, they remain on their desks and they have to face them head on. These daunting decisions occur far more frequently than anyone would let on; they are never without risk and usually there is some fallout to be dealt with later. 

Recent events have made it clear that our Prime Minister would not last long in this environment. It is obvious that he struggles to cope with the challenging, risky, but straightforward decisions he has been presented with. His choice to wait for the inquiry conclusions before taking action with Nadhim Zahawi is the perfect example. With all of the evidence, indications, and negative noise around Zahawi months ago, it is hard to believe he was even considered for the position of chairman. His continuous ducking and diving and about-facing in Boris’ final days was more than enough to have informed the Prime Minister not to appoint him.

Leadership is not about getting every decision right. It’s about making the hard choices at the optimum moment, and that usually means sooner rather than later. 

Leadership is an art 

Management is the science and leadership is the art. When the science of management says it can’t be done, we turn to the art of leadership to innovate and find new ways to get things done. Unfortunately, Rishi will never be a leader. His debacle with Zahawi showed he needs the evidence and the data before he would ever put his reputation on the line. 

In business as in politics, when things are consistent, practical, and incremental, management alone is probably the best way forward. This involves tight plans, risk management, solid processes, and the right measures. We call this the ‘hardware’.

If you don’t manage, you will go out of business very quickly. In more volatile and unpredictable times, we need a lot more leadership than management.

The focus shifts to vision, people, teams, and culture. There are tighter deadlines, limited experience, and often not enough data. Leaders are forced to make the tougher calls on a regular basis. They spend more time influencing and persuading their colleagues to raise their game and attempt things they have never done before, while still communicating to the wider public that they have things under control, especially when they don’t. 

Tips for becoming an A player:

  •     Think big – act small. 
  •     Never underestimate what your people can achieve in a positive environment. 
  •     Be the leader you want to follow. 
  •     Lead by example. 
  •     Learn to get out of the way. 

Thought for the week. 

Sometimes you need to be direct and unvarnished.

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