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Guest Blogs

Without management there is no business by Sukh Pabial

For the last few weeks I been hosting a series of guest posts sharing perspectives in response to the statement that “There is no such thing as Management”.

I’m delighted to share this 10th guest post from my very good friend Sukh Pabial (@sukhpabial). An avid blogger and tweeter, Sukh is passionate about how we can make a difference in Learning & Organisational Development. I think that passion comes across in both the advocacy and challenge you’ll see in his post. I hope you enjoy it!

Without management there is no business

In the L&D space, when we talk about management and leadership training, we polarise the debate as if it’s a meaningful thing to do. Often, we’ll do a training course and start the session with a whole debate based solely on the difference between management and leadership. We’ll most likely use Kotter or Adair as models to work from and ask the group what insights they have.

This is one of those times when I despair at the profession. Why do we need to do this? What benefit does it bring to the people going through that learning? How does it help them to be better managers and/or leaders? I think we only do this so that we can prove how much we know about the subject matter thereby providing evidence for our very existence. The truth is far simpler and is something we should be focused on.

Without management there is no business.

Somebody has to manage what happens in the business. For all the recent modern theories of managing people and resources in new and interesting ways, management will always be needed. It’s a business model we’re just not going to escape – ever.

Investors only invest when they are confident that management has a clear line of sight about the risks, opportunities and productivity of its organisation.

New starters only join a company when they are confident that managers are managing the business in the best way possible and can offer them a secure future of some sort.

People at work only score engagement surveys well when managers take the time to treat everyone well and support their performance at work.

Awards are only awarded to those organisations where managers are an integral part of the programme and helped to make it happen.

It doesn’t matter what level of manager you are in the business, but managers turn those cogs. For all that’s said about the importance of people at work, without management most businesses would just fail.

So, dear L&Ders, let’s evolve the debate. Let’s give the people on the programmes we create the credit they’re due. Let’s not have existential debates about the value of being a manager or a leader. That’s a redundant debate which helps nothing. Instead just focus on the skills that managers need. That’s where great debate happens, and that’s where great development happens.

There is a bigger concern I have which is this. When we have the discussion: “Who would you describe as a great leader?” We need to be careful about what we’re setting up there. Having discussions about Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr are honourable, but unhelpful in a business context. These people lead change of a different nature. The qualities they show and the attitude they had is not one that, in my opinion, is compatible with business aims.

I think we also, therefore, need to be equally cautious when we identify Sir Richard Branson, Lord Alan Sugar, or Jack Welch as great business leaders. They are successful business people, but hardly great role models to learn from, no matter their achievements.

The challenge of L&D in this management space is not to seek others to emulate, but to help managers find their best way of managing others. That’s always the challenge, and is always the greatest opportunity. Because without managers, there is no business.


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