Claire Morley-Jones, founder and MD of Leeds-based HR outsourcing and consulting experts HR180 Ltd, shares her thoughts on leading vs managing – and how to achieve the perfect balance!
“I don’t care what you think, it’s not your bl**dy job to tell me how to do things, I’m the boss and what I say goes around here”.
My first experience of hearing sentiments such as those above was as a 14 year old, working in a leisure centre and the person expressing them was the centre manager. I won’t write down what went through my head on hearing him (yes I was precocious) but you can imagine that I was not impressed and my level of respect for him went down a notch or two! I’m sure we’ve all heard similar rants over the years and these do seem to be the preserve of the ‘boss’ rather than a leader.
In my experience, business owners with little line management responsibility before setting up their business do get confused about the difference. Throughout our working lives we’ll come into contact with hundreds of ‘bosses’– they are a dime a dozen – and they are a product of ‘bossing’ or rather giving orders to people in a domineering manner. But is that really the way to get the best out of your people, or a recipe for eventual disaster?
During University modules in HR, you’re taught that the Contract of Employment is simply a piece of paper that oversimplifies the employment relationship and that there is an unwritten contract between a worker and their line manager that is often overlooked but relies on mutual trust and respect in order to operate fully. So how do you earn that respect rather than labour under the false belief that it surely comes from your job title?
I believe that you need to be both a manager and a leader in order to be successful in motivating and encouraging your team – each situation, experience and person requires different elements at different times in different quantities. Your style needs to be fluid, you need to be a chameleon adapting your exterior response to each unique set of circumstances, whilst also being, at the end of the day, the same chameleon with the same beliefs, values, experiences and thoughts. So what’s the difference?
According to formal theory a manager is more demanding and controlling, more process driven and action orientated whilst a leader inspires, teaches, listens and collaborates. I certainly believe you need a balance of the two (although I’d weight that more in favour of leadership!) but let me give you a very basic example. You’re about to launch some new software in your business that will make things more efficient – you need to:
· Consult with everyone about the choice of software and get a few people to trial it giving feedback (leader)
· Make a decision on the software and tell everyone (manager)
· Project manage the install and implementation of the software (manager)
· Participate in staff training, praising people’s successes in using the system (leader)
· Listen to feedback from the team in how things can be improved (leader)
· Ensure that each action is delivered and acted on (manager)
· Allow everyone autonomy but recognise when you need to step in (leader)
· Insist people use the system if they are resistant and hold them accountable (manager)
Most line managers we encounter can do the ‘management’ bit (particularly as they’ve probably been promoted through being good at a job rather than being good at line management) but the leadership part can be elusive.
So how can you be a better leader?
To have a successful, long-term relationship you need to treat employees as partners. Obviously they need to deliver their job role, but if you can respectfully treat them individually according to their own strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes you will gain far more out of the relationship! The old adage what you put in is what you get out especially rings true here. I’ve always been delighted to lose people if I can see that I’ve helped them onto something bigger and better – I want them to be able to use their natural talents and be as successful as they can be.
Clearly HR people need to have an interest in other human beings anyway, however, a leader REALLY cares about the person – the total package not just the work façade. How did they get to where they are, what personal struggles have they had, who are they? It’s this attention, care and consideration that shows your commitment to being a leader and not just wanting results but also wanting the best for someone.
I have always found that a big part of respect is telling the truth – even when this is hard and very uncomfortable for either party. You should feel confident that you could have any conversation with your team member and they should feel that they can always trust you with the truth too. As a line manager you don’t always have the answers and do you know what, that fine! Just don’t shy away from being honest – admitting you don’t know or that you were wrong and explaining what you’ve learnt. It’s another part of being yourself and showing that you are human too!
It’s not always easy to be a leader but it is deeply rewarding – more so emotionally and spiritually than being a manager. Getting to know each individual member of your team and truly understanding what is important to them helps bond you to them and them to the team! We are after all, social creatures and leading rather than managing is an extension of this!
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