Striking the right balance in leadership

There is a lot of talk about the differences between leadership and management.  Most articles on the subject are encouraging managers to be better leaders, making the assumption that it is not their natural inclination.  Leadership needs people to have vision, coach their staff, set goals, plan ahead, and take responsibility etc.  Management is more about organising the functional day-to-day tasks, keeping control, and monitoring progress.

Then on top of this many people in organisations have a “day job”.  Especially in smaller organisations managers often have to carry out certain tasks as well as providing the vision and managing staff.  That makes a three way pull on your time.  If you are senior in an organisation you will have to find a balance between creative forward thinking, managing your staff, and keeping your own tasks on track.

So what happens when the balance is wrong?  We all tend to gravitate to doing things we find easiest.  The task oriented manager will prioritise their own tasks and in doing that will lock themselves away so they are not “disturbed” by their staff.  In doing this they will leave the employees to get on with their jobs in whatever way they think fit.  There will be no forward planning, and no drive to improve anything.  There will also be no monitoring of what is happening.  This might work for a while if the staff are good at their jobs but problems will pile up and the all those around will get frustrated and de-motivated.

And what about the person who focusses too much on their management tasks?  Well of course everything will be well-organised and stable.  All the employees will know what is required of them and will report back good information. There will be lots of control and money will be closely monitored.  But – it will be a boring place to work with no sense of direction or forward thinking.  And the group will walk blindfolded into troubles because no one is thinking ahead or expecting any reason to change.

Take then, the person who is a visionary leader and completely focussed on bringing their creative ideas to the world.  What is it going to be like to work with them?  They will probably leave a trail of destruction behind them because they will always be off on the next idea and will never see anything through.  They will be completely hopeless at doing simple tasks such as their own expenses. (Most visionaries need a side-kick who has their feet on the ground and will keep control and interpret the vision into manageable tasks for the staff.)   There is room in this world for a few people like this but most organisations cannot cope with them as mid-level managers as they just cannot function within the strictures of a corporate structure.

So if you are in a company working as a manager, how should you balance these elements?  Each aspect is important to your job, so you must make sure the department is under control and well run, giving enough time to managing staff and monitoring their performance.  You also need to spend some time looking at the future and how you can improve the way you work and inspiring your staff to do things better.  And of course you need to be able to put aside some quiet time to do your own tasks.

Finding the balance and knowing when to focus on which type of task is key to the success of a successful business person.  The starting point is to understand the purpose of each type of activity, and then find suitable environments for each one making sure, no matter how busy you are, nothing gets ignored.

To find out more about balancing leadership issues you may be interested in our Leadership Skills Development course.