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What’s a Manager’s Role These Days?

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This topic always generates lively discussion!

Today it seems that leadership is valued far more than management.  Many people believe they are leaders or capable of becoming one.  Leadership programs, coaches and mentors are advertised everywhere.  Some management roles have been eliminated during restructuring and the Managers who do remain are trying to serve both their Leaders and their Teams.  

Have Managers gone the way of floppy diskettes?  Personally, I don’t think so!  There’s no doubt that some organizations have flattened their  hierarchies and self directed work teams (skunkworks) have emerged but many organizations still work within a more traditional Leader, Manager, Subject Matter Expert model.    

Warren G. Bennis, founder of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California and ”the dean of  leadership gurus” according to Forbes magazine, said “Managers are people who do things right and Leaders are people who do the right thing”.

I see leaders influencing:

  • Vision (what do clients need and want today and into the future?) 
  • Strategy (why do we do what we do best every day and what is our unique value proposition?)
  • Outside the organization (what best practices can we share and  what global best practices can be tailored to our organization’s benefit?)

There are certainly informal leaders in every role but for the purposes of this piece, we’ll focus on formal leaders. 

I see Managers facilitating:

  • Operations (what systems and structures are needed to translate the vision into action?)  
  • Tactics (how do we execute our unique value proposition with excellence?)    
  • Inside the organization (how do we get things done right the first time through our people?)    

The world isn’t standing still!  Society changes its attitudes, consumers change their tastes and technology changes at warp speed so:

  • Leaders provide longer term perspectives, challenge the status quo, educate their organizations about external realities and inspire stakeholders to create innovative solutions nimbly  
  • Managers focus more immediately, coach teams to be client-centric, find new ways of doing business, streamline processes, set goals, take calculated risks, execute with excellence and evaluate success to predetermined metrics 

Both Leaders and Managers need to possess common personal characteristics like:  professionalism, honesty, integrity, transparency, truthfulness…

Consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner shared the following results from her dissertation at the University of Massachusetts:

  • Teams with clear vision and strong management had high performance
  • Teams with unclear vision and poor management had low performance
  • Teams with unclear vision and strong management had mid performance
  • Teams with clear vision and poor management still had high performance…the management function came from within the team 

In my opinion, Leader and Manager roles are different, not more or less important, and we need both, particularly as we continue to go through significant transition and change.   In an upcoming blog, we’ll ask

  • Are Leaders or born or created?
  • Do Self Directed Work Teams really work?

In the meantime, my favourite resources for Leaders and Managers remain:

  • “First Break All the Rules:  what the world’s greatest managers do differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • “12:  the elements of great managing” by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter
  • “Follow This Path:  how the worl’d greatest organizations drive growth by unleashing human potential” by Curt Coffman and Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina
  • “The One Thing You Need to Know…about great managing, great leading and sustained individual success” by Marcus Buckingham