Management is More than Leadership

Despite what some people might say management is more than leadership. It is possible to be a great manager and yet still be a bad leader and vice versa. I will explain this further later in this article but let us start with some definitions.

A manager is someone who is responsible and accountable for results through making decisions and organising resources (human and non-human). Management is the theories that inform what a manager does and the practices that managers undertake.

A leader, on the other hand, is defined by having a following. Through personal qualities, she or he elicits a group of followers to move in a specific direction or execute a set of commands given by the leader. Leadership is the quality that a leader is said to possess.

My first observation is that not all management is about leadership. The person managing a technical (as oppose to a social) communication network is a manager even though that person may have no people under his control. The key here is making decisions and the organising of resources. This is a trivial example but illustrates some of the obfuscations around the notions of leadership in business and attempts by people to denote or denigrate the term manager. I would like to consider other examples to illustrate why I believe management is more than leadership.

My first example is drawn from sports, specifically football (or soccer to those in the US). England won the FIFA World Cup in 1966. The Manager (or in modern parlance, the Coach) was Sir Alf Ramsey, who had been a successful manager in the English League. He was appointed to his position several years before 1966. Sir Alf chose a young player, Bobby (later Sir Bobby) Moore to be the captain of the national team. Sir Alf had conceived a revolutionary style of play in that era (as football fans will know, he played a 4 3 3 formation instead of the then usual 4 2 4 formation) and chose a squad of players who would play to this style.

Sir Alf was considered a fine coach and tactician but was seen as a cold and aloof man. In contrast, Bobby Moore was seen as natural leader who could marshal the players during the game and motivate the players to peak perform during the match. During the World Cup competition, England’s best striker (the guy whose job is to score goals) was a man called Jimmy Greaves who had been injured during the quarter and semi finals. He was available for the finals but Sir Alf chose to leave him out of the side and continued using Jeff Hurst (now Sir Jeff) who ended up scoring a hat-trick in that match. England won the World Cup in 1966 because Sir Alf was a great manager who selected and organised the right resources to achieve his goal (this included appointing an inspirational leader as captain). Few football fans would consider Sir Alf Ramsey a great leader!

My second example is drawn from military history. Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Western theatre of during WW2. He later became the President of the United States. Eisenhower was never a battlefield commander and was not known for his leadership qualities. However, he was a superb diplomat, a good man manger and ultimately proved to be a great manager.

At the same time, the Allies had two charismatic military leaders, General George Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (later lord Montgomery of El Alamein). Both had reputations of being fine leaders and great battlefield commanders.

Operation Overlord, the Invasion of Normandy, saw the largest assembly of military resources ever undertaken. The planning and logistics involved in the invasion required the management and co-ordination of military resources to a scale never undertaken before. Yet Eisenhower, through good management, created the organisation necessary to achieve success. In the days before the appreciation of the need to combine air, sea and land forces, there were intense inter-service rivalries between the Navy, The Air Force and the Army. Ike not only successfully overcame these inter-service rivalries but also managed to smooth over the rivalries between the American and the British Commands. Ike was a great manager but not necessarily an inspirational leader. It would appear unlikely that either Monty or Patton could have done Ike’s job in Overlord!

My third example is drawn from politics. In the 1930s and 1940s, India was seeking independence from the British Empire. The Congress Party had a vision of self rule for the Indian the whole of the subcontinent (now the countries of India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh). Mahatma Gandhi was seen as the spiritual leader of this movement. Gandhi through his preaching and speeches inspired many Indians to take up the cause of independence. Now Gandhi was inspired by a vision of India that was based upon a philosophy resting on the simplicity of Indian rural life. Although non-sectarian himself, Gandhi grew to be seen by the Muslims to be too closely identified with the Hindu majority and clamoured for their own state.

Jawaharlal Nehru was an urbane and well connected politician being a leading light in the Congress party. Nehru was a close friend the Mountbatten’s (Lord Louis Mountbatten was the Queen’s Viceroy in India). Nehru realised the aspirations of the Muslims under their leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah could not be accommodated in Gandhi’s vision of the Greater India and was instrumental in negotiating the terms of independence from British rule that created the three states in the Indian subcontinent. Nehru went on to become the first Prime Minister of India. Although Nehru had some of the qualities of a leader, he was first and foremost a great manager. Although Gandhi was a great leader in that he was an inspiration to many who strove for independence, I would not count him as a great manager.

Those who have worked in many organisations will recognise the contribution made by good managers. They may not be the most visible or vocal leaders. They may not even be members of the Leadership or Directorial team. We may not even like them as individuals but we all would recognise them because they deliver results!

In the business world, good management is about delivering results. Sometimes a good manager may have to lead. Sometimes a good manager has to follow someone else’s lead. What is important for a good manager is to make good decisions (heuristically, I would say 2 good ones out of 3 decisions made; any more then she or he is probably being too cautious!), and to organise the resources under her or his control effectively. If we want organisations to deliver what society demands of them, we need good managers in all parts of the organisation.

Finally, much of the literature and exhortations arising out of the Leadership school concerns strategy and strategic direction. This is the area that I would describe as Strategic Management. I shall be submitting further articles on Strategic Management at a later date.