Managers and Leaders

“Our leaders have to be admired for their thought leadership and not just competence.”
This is the quote from Mr. Subroto Bagchi’s interview in Economic Times (Nov 30, 2007)

This resonates so well with what Amita and me often discuss about.

Both of us have seen Indian and Global managers at very senior positions.
These are not the celebrity leaders, but these are the managers who are responsible for growing businesses and leading people. These managers, especially in large organisation have to be good leaders. It is not easy for people to join and connect with faceless organisation. For people, their managers are the face of the organisation and most of the time people join or leave their managers. In such cases managers carry enormous responsibility to provide not just the business competency but good people leadership.

This is where the leadership style and approach differ.

I have seen many competent professionals. They are good at their function and their job. But when it comes to leading people (there is a difference between managing and leading people), they fall awfully short.

I have personally worked with entrepreneurs, professional managers and good leaders. I have worked in corporate sector, have worked in social sector. I have seen different type of people. I have seen the difference between leaders and manager. The ability to inspire, create vision and walk on the chosen path – is the the most important aspect to be successful in being a leader – be it in corporate life or in social sector.

To be a successful leader one needs to have both the capabilities – competency and inspiring people. Just the competency can not take you too far. I have seen some entrepreneurs who had vision (later on I realised that they had only dreams), ability to inspire people but did not have competency in business areas. They simply couldn’t succeed. Some entrepreneurs I have seen who were competent in business areas but did not have the vision. Their businesses did not grow beyond a point. Good professionals did not like to stick around such people for long and hence business did not grow.

When it comes to professional managers leading the people, most manager think that managing people is good enough. They focus on giving right job description, right work to the people under them. They give pep talks so that people can deliver the numbers. The most professional managers follow M-B-O (management by objectives) process to get work done. They think by setting up the objectives people deliver the desired results. It is true to some extent. But it is not the entire truth.
People mostly look up to their managers for direction and inspiration. People like to work for such leaders. The inspired and motivated people tend to give much more than set objectives. They help create more vibrancy in the group. They help create happy and creative atmosphere. In this age of Knowledge economy, the dependency is on people than just the processes.

The good leaders provide this important ingredient – inspiration and vision (thought leadership) – which is so vital for growth than just the straight jacketed MBO or task oriented process.

(Reproduced from my old blog (2007) on different blog site)


One Response to Managers and Leaders

  1. sankarshan says:

    Here’s the deal. I read a lot about “thought leadership” but the actual definition or, measurement of what that phrase means is somewhat elusive. Take the case of a company that is geographically spread (which one isn’t) and, has business units. As you move away from the HQ, you end up having a penumbra effect with a significantly larger percentage of the far-flung kingdoms being “implementers” of strategy ie. are busy doing the tactical things. Wouldn’t that actually stifle thought leadership or, doing innovative things ?

    And yet, the paradox I see is that managers entrusted with ensuring business growth (even when the business could be something as supposedly unexciting as maintenance engineering) can and do often use personal charisma to ensure “influence without authority”. In India perhaps it is more of a cultural thing where influence stems from designation and, flaunting of designation to demand influence is somewhat normal.

    Personal charisma takes time to develop and, takes time to be accepted. However, it does work. Having inspiration is kind of another dimension altogether.

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