“If you knew the difference between managers and leaders what would you do with the information?”

July 12, 2010

“Leaders and managers. What’s the difference?” The question is posed in management textbooks, and answered in some of them. But a more interesting question is “If you knew the difference between managers and leaders, what would you do with the information?”

Tudor Rickards

The following is written for students of leadership although professional managers and others with leadership responsibilities may also find it useful. Before addressing the more interesting question, let’s look at the apparently simpler one. “What’s the difference between leaders and managers?” It turns out that the question has been answered in different ways.

Yukl’s view

Gary Yukl, who has written a best-selling multi-edition textbook on leadership, provides one of the crisper of analyses of the issue. He notes that in writings about leadership, there is general agreement that the concepts of management and leadership are not identical. There is also considerable controversy over the degree of overlap of the two concepts. Yukl is among several leadership scholars who quotes Bennis and Nanus to the effect that “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing” (p 21 in Yukl’s 1985 edition).

Yukl then identifies a modified view. He lists a range of scholars including Henry Minzberg, Bernard Bass and John Kotter, all of whom conside that “leading and managing are distinct processes but they do not assume that leaders and managers are different sorts of people”. Yukl expresses his own conclusion that “defining managing and leadership as distinct roles, processes, or relationships may obscure more than it reveals if it encourages simplistic theories about effective leadership” (p6).

Northouse’s view

Peter Northouse, another author of an influential leadership text, follows Yukl, but gives more emphasis to the differentiation perspective, citing Zaleznik as an important example. Northouse identifies John Kotter as holding the milder view of differentiation between processes not persons. He notes that in his textbook “we will treat the roles of managers and leaders similarly, and not emphasize the difference between them.” (p10 in Northouse’s 2004 edition).

Confused?

Confused? There are differences in the perspectives of what might be called the extreme differentationists such as Bennis and Nanus, (and Zaleznik before them) who consider leaders and managers to be distinctly different types of people; the milder form of differentiation (of processes but not necessarily people) supported by Kotter; and the view that there is a considerable degree of overlap in both the processes and the people (Yukl).

In the text-book Dilemmas of Leadership, http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/0415355850/ these perspectives would be characterized as different maps. Note that they are not completely different, but retain shared features derived from earlier and well-respected maps of the terrain of management and leadership.

So does it matter?

The difference between leaders and managers seems to have been of importance to the distinguished authors mentioned above. They offer their particular perspective on the subject early in their text books, as if to get an important issue clarified or at least addressed (or in some cases as the theme of the article) they were writing. We can learn something from the writings of the authorities on leadership, but the issue remains unresolved, as we are offered differing answers. Some are clear-cut, distinguishing different kinds of people as managers and leaders (Bennis & Nanus; Zalenik). Others, such as Yukl, warn against the presumption of any clear-cut answer which risks over-simplification of underpinning theories of leadership and management.

Students of leadership will have to get by without a definitive answer to the question “what’s the difference between a leader and a manager?” And that brings me to my proposed different question. “If you knew the difference between managers and leaders what would you do with the information?”

This suggests that each leader, and each student of leadership, has to work out the answer based on personal circumstances. Earlier maps will need to be tested for relevance. Maybe it matters if you have to sit an examination on leadership. Or perhaps it matters if you believe you have a professional need to identify cohorts of people for two types of job, the one labelled jobs for leaders and the other jobs for managers. I have come across organizations whose recruitment process operates in such a way. It comes with a belief that people’s traits are more important than people’s capabilities to develop into roles they find themselves in.

To go more deeply

The various references and leadership authorities cited in this post can be found by reference to any of the three key texts mentioned: Yukl; Northouse; and Rickards and Clark (Dilemmas of Leadership).


Robert Benmosche: New leader, old leadership style?

January 3, 2010

Robert Benmosche was appointed as a tough guy to do a tough job at AIG. Is such a job ‘situationally’ right for such a leadership style? To address the question, we have to take a fresh look at an old leadership theory

According to The Financial Times

Robert Benmosche has the toughest task in corporate America – keeping AIG afloat while finding some $80bn (£50bn, €56bn) to repay US taxpayers and free the insurer from government ownership. Since taking over in August , Mr Benmosche has clashed with government officials over executives’ pay, threatened to resign and halted the “fire sale of the century” – a plan to sell large chunks of the once-mighty insurer that had been blessed by the federal authorities after they first bailed out AIG in September [2008]. Mr Benmosche believes that his aggressive management style has helped stop the rot at a company that was heading for liquidation and was being lambasted by politicians for paying bonuses with federal money. He predicts it will take at least two years for AIG to sell businesses and earn enough profits to repay the government and persuade it to sell its 80 per cent stake. The authorities are not as confident. Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, recently told Congress he did not believe the government [would] be fully refunded for its largesse towards AIG. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that taxpayers will end up losing more than $30bn on the insurer.

The recent crises in financial institutions have revealed that many were led by charismatic and dominant individuals whose style in hindsight was often associated with narcissism and worse psychological characteristics. [Mandrill Management, as it has been called in earlier blogs]. There is much to be said for a direct and forceful style in times of crisis. Mr Benmosche has a chance to provide a more positive exemplar for such a style. We will follow the case carefully.

Robert Benmosche’s background

Born: 1944, Brooklyn, New York
Education: New York Military Academy; BA in Mathematics, Alfred University, NY
Career: Truck driver for Coca-Cola; two years as a lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps. ; In 1966 worked in technology at consultancy Arthur D. Little
before joining Chase in 1979; Between 1982 and 1995 he was at Paine Webber, the brokerage house, working variously in marketing, finance, operations, human resources and sales; Moved to MetLife in 1995 as its chief executive, before retiring
in 2006. Appointed CEO of AIG in August 2009 after the corporate upheaval of the credit crunch. Hobbies: “I need to find the time to go beyond learning wine-making and jogging.”

A Note on Situational Leadership

Students of leadership will still come across the venerable theory of situational leadership. The textbook Dilemmas of Leadership traces the concept to an influential article in Harvard Business Review from the late 1950s, reprinted as a classic 25 years later. Prior to the 1950s, trait theorists had assumed there was a ‘one right way to lead organizations. By the 1950s, the older trait theories were being replaced by theories which suggested there was still a ‘one right way’, by that the ‘way’ would be influenced by context. Contingency theories have a family resemblance to situational theories. They don’t take contrasting positions. Any confusion is due more to historical differences. Contingency theories came from broader studies iof organization; situational leadership as its label implies has been limited within leadership studies, and subject to ‘appropriation’ by consultant-academics such as Hersey and Blanchard.

Situational Leadership was a movement away from earlier full-blown trait theories of ‘what leaders are’ (fixed traits) to ‘what leaders do’. There is no simple way through the ‘contingency/situational’ jungle. Rickards and Clark (Dilemmas of Leadership) suggest that any leadership theory can be studied for exploring the dilemmas which any leader has to deal with. For example, situational leadership suggests that a leader who adapts to situations may produce anxieties and lack of trust and confidence in others regarding his or her ‘authenticity’. This is a dilemma of trust in seeking the appropriate behaviours to exercise leadership influence or control.


Breaking News: English Football isolated from Jose Mourinho

December 14, 2007

isolation.jpg

This was the week that Jose Mourinho was not appointed manager of the England football team. ITV ran an interesting and intelligent report on the special one. It concentrated on his charismatic leadership style as much as on his achievements.

The TV report was mostly confirmation of a much-told story. One or two of the anecdotes were new to me, and rather striking in their demonstration of a leadrship style that deserves study for its more general description of a charismatic in action.

To put the leadership aspects in context I will draw on the notions of charisma from the monumental studies of Max Weber, as interpreted as a contibution to new leadership research by Alan Bryman, and later by Rickards and Clark.

Weber in translation

Weber was not the first or last German scholar to write in a complex and unforgiving style. His name is frequently mentioned as the father of sociological thinking on charisma. It may be realistic to assume that his ideas might have lost something as they have become distilled into Anglo-American academic folk-lore.

As Bryman noted:

Weber’s writings [on charisma] are highly diffuse, sometimes contradictory, and often [lack] definitive exposition

Weber’s ideas imply that charismatic leadership is an ancient mode of social dominance. The charismatic leader wins power and authority through exceptional personal characteristics. He is indeed the special one, maybe the chosen one. At the extreme, cult leaders are ‘pure’ examples. Followers are also believers. The special one has powers of revelation. He displays symbolic evidence of his unique gifts. He is likely to have been also ‘blessed’ with hypnotising personal presence.

Jose as cult leader

The programme gave examples of Jose’s near mystic powers. Let’s not forget they were backed by meticulous prepararation. We know the mysterious powers of the ancient soothsayers derived from their acute observational powers, and even careful . This is an anticipation of scientific method, although with claims for a quite different epistemology.

One episode was impressively stage-managed. It took place at press conference before an important game in the European Champions League. The press were demanding something. (A sign from the special one?).

His response was startling, but in keeping with the wiles of the oracles of old. ‘You want me to name my team? I will do more than that. I will name their team.’ Which he did. With complete conviction. Live, to camera. He was to be proved completely correct.
[Students of leadership: discuss].

Playing chess with the media

In one interview he was asked if he played chess with the media. His reply indicates the care with which his performance is planned:

When I face the media … before or after the game, I feel it as part of the game. When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started. And when I go to the press conference after the game, the game has not finished yet.

Cult leaders and sacred texts

JM even has a secret document, which records his extended labours. A book of Jose, written by himself. It is said that no-one knows what’s in it. So secret is it that his words will go to the grave with him. Secret, and with the whiff of the supernatural associated with sacred texts which mere mortals are not permitted to see.

Paying penance

After one particularly epic performance by his team, he ordered the players to commit a highly symbolic act. They returned to the field acknowledging their legions of followers. The players removed their shirts. What or who was all that about? The religious symbolism persists. [Students of theology: discuss].

Righteous indignation

Another anecdote reveals the wrath of the special one if an acolyte falls short of expectations. He once publicly rebuked the Chelsea player Joe Cole for a lack of the dedication and work ethic expected of all acolytes. In a game shortly afterwards, Cole scored a magnificently-taken goal, JM gestured to him in agitated fashion from the touchline. When the player approached his manager, he discovered that he was not being acclaimed for the goal, but abused for his lack of commitment to defensive duties in the build-up to the move. The programme claimed that JM eventually succeeded in upping Cole’s contributions to the team ethic, where previous coaches had failed.

Trials and temptations

The program also examined the strained relationship between Mourinho and Roman Abramovitch, billionaire owner of Chelsea FC. The disputed territory appears to have been over the owner’s wish for success both in terms of results, and in terms of style of play. While Mourinho’s personality sparkled, his team failed to capture the imagination -say in the style of envied rivals Manchester United. Abramovitch had taken steps to intervene more directly, acquiring support staff and two expensive players that had not been part of Mourinho’s plans for the future of the club. Among the support staff was Abram Grant, personal friend of the owner, and who was widely accepted to have been installed as likely replacement for JM.

The programme featured a psychologist exploring the messages to be found at film of a press conference held shortly after the arrival of the two international stars Shevshenko and Ballack. His body language is distant. No eye contact left or right. The
The psychologist suggested a desire for ‘total control’ , and in this instance, partial loss of control.

A few weeks later the Special one was gone. ‘By mutual consent, and with great love’.

So much religious symbolism. In the programme, Mourinho ducked questions about his religion, but talked a lot about the importance of love. Like a true charismatic, he seems to have worked out his own ethical philosophy.

Footnote

Following McClaren’s departure, Mourinho emerged as the strong favourite for England manager in the media and among most football supporters. BBC Radio 5 Live football correspondent Mike Ingham said:

In many ways he would have been perfect ..The job is about giving players an extra 10% and I think he would have done that ..Mourinho ticked all the boxes bar one – I’m not sure how much of a diplomat he would have been.

He might had added on behalf of a minority of fans and English wannabe managers, “… pity he’s not English”.

The Guardian also considered that Mourinho was the FA’s first choice, though Soho Square sources say he was never offered the job and they clearly remained uncertain of his motives. The FA’s caution was borne out when talks between Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, and the FA director of football, Sir Trevor Brooking, ended with the Portuguese ruling himself out.

Three weeks later, and a complex deal was sealed, and another of the world’s supercoaches, Fabio Capello, was appointed England manager. The special one had just faded from the scene.

Acknowledgement

Image is: edcommunity.apple.com/…/38/isolation.jpg
with echoes in the post of the famous headline:
Fog over channel, Continent isolated

[To be continued …]