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What do we do to people? by Tony Jackson

We’re nearing the end of this series responding to the statement that “There is no such thing as Management”.

Today’s post, our 12th so far, comes from Tony Jackson (@JacksonT0ny)(@ChelshamConsult), a fellow twitter juggler like me!. A nicely provocative piece of writing, I think it holds some truths that are just not spoken enough.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

What do we do to people?

It has been a fascinating debate. Management vs. leadership. One and the same thing or all very different? Is management a part of leadership? I think it really can be argued both ways and the debate has highlighted that. But to be provocateur I will go firmly in one direction on this:

What do we think we are doing to people who are on the way up?

We already know that we are a little too prone to promoting the best specialist or the most successful salesperson to positions of management  as opposed to…er…the person most likely to make the best manager.

We know that they feel isolated, vulnerable, unqualified at this key point in their career. Despite all the management development courses in the world, and that’s a lot, we don’t always equip managers adeptly to manage people. They don’t know what to do in those moments of truth. And they know it. They feel it.

So imagine – just at the point when they are grappling with management, feeling all those things, we start to bang on about the elements of leadership as well, asking them to do all the things that add up to being an effective leader. All before they have managed to get their heads around how to manage people. Before they have had a chance to make their mistakes.

Before they have mastered some of the certainties of management we ask them to grapple with the ambiguities of leadership: when they should be figuring our how to get things done, how to deal with difficult people, how to deliver against clear objectives and to an agreed P&L, how the business actually works, how to succeed within their own bit of the organisation they have to get their heads around the rest of the business. Really?

And let’s note, in passing, that there are great leaders who would make (or were) hopeless managers, just as there are great managers who will not make it to a leadership role. If that is true then it means that, by definition, they are different skills.  Doesn’t it?

Before you scream “distributed leadership” at me I know that in the evolving organisations of the 21st Century we don’t believe leaders just sit at the top of the hierarchy – if there is a hierarchy in the old-fashioned sense. All well and good.

So yes there are overlaps. As a prime example, yes we want a focus on inclusion in our managers and or leaders. But give our new managers a chance please. Give them some space. And give our leaders the opportunity to be earning their own stripes safe in the knowledge that their most capable people are doing the managing for them.

For behind every theoretical argument there is a real person.


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