Realising the Full Potential of Leaders & Managers

15 Nov

In an address to delegates at last week’s CIPD Conference, management expert Marcus Buckingham made a series of key statements regarding the role of Leaders and Manager in identifying the strengths and skills of individual employees and of how to deploy these without making assumptions that, should this prove successful under a particular set of circumstances, these tactics and strategies can then be applied company wide and across the board.

In managing and improving upon the performance of employees should leaders and managers apply and impose their own template models of competency and strategy or rather rely upon and develop individual skills and strengths?

Buckingham argues that “formulaic” models and methods of management and leadership do not work in all contexts at all times and for all people.  Because a successful outcome has been arrived at in one instance due to the activity and involvement of an employee or a team with a particular set of skills and strengths is not to say that this same process can be applied company wide and across the board.

‘’When corporate leaders see an innovative way of doing something, they write down the tactic,’’ noted Buckingham, ‘’Once this is written down they feel it needs lots of rules.  It’s like there’s no way of doing things in a non-standard way.’’

Such a principle on the part of leaders and managers simply is not a fool proof short route to success. The imposition of one ‘’tried and tested’’ strategy on to other individuals and teams can often fail to work due to a combination of resentment, different skill sets and different environments and situations.  Buckingham went on to note; ‘’we can’t have a formulaic model for innovation. We can’t define a few of the right behaviours then scale them up to the many.’’

In recognising and accepting this principle in the workplace then perhaps some helpful distinctions between management and leadership can be identified; though, of course, a ‘leader’, a ‘manager’ and indeed a ‘coach’ are very much the same person whose principle role at a particular time is to wear the ‘right hat’ according to the situation.

At first glance, therefore, some of the key and critical functions of a leader as opposed to a manager might imply two very separate job roles.  This is not in fact necessarily the case.  When, for whatever set of circumstances, a person is required to ‘lead’ then to do so successfully and effectively he or she needs to ‘pull’ the team and provide direction and  vision in pursuit of this goal, to act also as coach to team members; to inspire and motivate them.  Wearing the ‘managerial hat’, this same person is required, on the other hand, to ‘’push’’ the team in the achieving of the task; in time and on budget!

Management at first glance would seem to be restrictive and systems driven.  Further reflection reveals the vital importance of good management and although the role of a leader may on occasion seem to be markedly different to that of a manager, the key to success for any business is for both leadership and management to work in effective harmony in both the pursuit of the task or ‘the vision’ and in the achieving of it.  Linear and lateral thinking are both critical to a successful enterprise. As a result, management and leadership need to complement one another.

In essence, effective management focuses on process and task.  These attributes include a focussing on systems, a reliance on control and administrative practices and organisation, in planning and in coordination.  These very necessary requirements do not necessarily lead to an ability to identify individual abilities and to both harness and enhance these and to apply them in specific and particular circumstances.  This is more the role of the Leader as opposed to the Manager.

The successful Leader is an individual able to focus on people and to engage successfully with employees in both the present and the long term.  This person needs to be able at the same time to inspire trust and to learn from his or her own colleagues or subordinates and, crucially, according to Buckingham, to continue to innovate and to reframe according to differing needs and in the context they encounter and with the best tools they have at their disposal in the HR sense of the term.

“Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values.”

— Mike Vance

Catalyst is now running a series of highly successful FREE Leadership & Management Best Practice Seminars . These venues provide delegates from a very broad spectrum and across a diverse mix of sectors, both public and private, with a platform where people with L & D and HR responsibility can meet and discuss strategic plans and practices and to either set in place or improve and maintain staff structure and on-going development within this ever changing business environment.

For more information about how Catalyst could assist your organisation please contact Greg Kirwan Business Development Manager at  or visit our web site

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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Catalyst Business Academy


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