Discussions on leadership labour hard to make the difference between leaders and managers. While being a leader is not the same thing as being a manager, for modern organizations leadership and management are integral. The one cannot be there without the other.
Two important aspects of modern organizations need to be noted.
- Today’s organizations cannot function without some established systems, procedures and rules. They need some degree of continuity and stability. In the absence of these their functioning will be chaotic.
- At the same time any good organization, particularly business organization will have to embrace change if it has to grow. If it does not keep its doors and windows open for change it will be swept away by change which is inevitable or by other organizations which are more open to the winds of change.
To ensure the integrity of the organization on the one hand and to ensure that the organization is not rendered obsolete by change, it needs both managerial and leadership inputs. Organisations need managers to ensure that the systems, procedures and rules are followed. They need leaders to foresee changes or the need to change and lead the organization to bring about the same. By definition, leaders see the conflict between the existing situation and what they believe should be the situation. They resolve this conflict by taking the organization to a new or higher level.
This does not mean that leadership and managerial functions are discharged by different people. Every individual has some leadership abilities and some managerial abilities. Every person working in an organization has to play some managerial and some leadership roles. The important thing is how much (1) the position a person occupies in an organization requires him to play managerial role and leadership role and (2) how much certainty and continuity he is inclined to have or how much uncertainties and vagaries of change he can bear as a person. On these depends how much of each role a person plays in the organization.
For example, if the position a person occupies in the organization requires him most of the time to ensure that all the financial regulations are strictly followed, the norms are conformed to etc. and very little of his time need be spent on thinking about the future, that person will be more of a manager and less of a leader. One of two things may happen in that event. One is, if that person has that fire in him to see the incongruence between the current situation and what the situation ought to be, he will either move away from the present assignment or will change the rules and systems themselves to realize his dreams. On the other hand if he is one who likes stability, is afraid of uncertainties, he will enjoy doing what he does and carry on. In other words, every one of us does some management work and some leadership work. When we say leaders we refer to those who spend more or most of their time on change.
Change of what? Managers function within the ambit of the framework They do bring about change; but these are changes within the existing framework – changes in the system. They may change some formats, some steps in the manufacturing and so on - continuous improvement. Leaders, on the other hand, bring about larger changes – changes of the system itself. They are prepared to risk the hazards of unforeseen consequences of their plans and actions. They manage in uncertain conditions. They are prepared to move out of the laid down territory. Their belief can be likened to the following words of Arnold Toynbee: “To live dangerously…is the inevitable condition of being alive at all; and there is no moral law which states that defeat is inherent in the resort to dangerous maneuver”. Ultimately, it is not so much the kick up to the corner room as the inclination and choice of the person which decides how much of which role he will play, and whether he remains mainly a manager or shapes himself as a leader.