As I read through recent business literature, it strikes me that managers and leaders are still being treated as two different species. As if these two roles are not expected to coexist within the same person, but rather exist sequentially.
Somehow, we seem to have connected management and leadership directly to level of hierarchy and experience. It’s simple: junior people are managers and senior people are leaders. Right? It fits conveniently with the fact that management is about planning and control, which is supposed to be easy, and leadership is about inspiring and guiding, which is difficult. Right?
I don’t think anyone who wants to be good at what they do can afford to be ‘either/or’ today. The coffee shop store manager must define purpose for her staff just as much as the senior executive must ensure that business outcomes can be tracked and delivered. I meet young people who sadly think that they are too inexperienced to act as a leader and, perhaps even worse, I have known senior executives who believe it’s enough for them to just have a vision and walk the corridors.
Sure, the industrial era focused on efficiency optimisation and hence forced a separation of roles. But today, we’re well past that, and efficiency has mostly been replaced by innovation and value as the key business drivers. By shifting to project-based teams, roles are becoming increasingly blurred. Management is no longer linked solely to the things we control.
So what if we had just one role? Would we stimulate the less experienced to speak up? And for those who hide behind big words, would we call their bluff? Allow me to introduce the Manaleader. A new breed of business professionals who are ambitious not just for themselves but also on behalf of the organisation they are part of, who constantly juggle between adapting direction and taking responsibility for making things happen, and whose agility and curiosity are contagious because they have understood that their potential is independent of hierarchy or experience.
Thankfully, there are already lots of manaleaders out there. And they haven’t been waiting to be labeled – that’s just to make it easier for everyone else to recognise them!