managerial leadership part 1

Management AND Leadership

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
Peter F. Drucker, Essential Drucker: Management, the Individual and Society

“It has been fashionable to distinguish leaders from managers…Frankly, I don’t understand what this distinction means in the everyday life of organizations. Sure, we can separate leading and managing conceptually. But can we separate them in practice? Or, more to the point, should we even try?”

Henry Mintzberg, Managing

I am strong advocate of the concept of Managerial Leadership. It is a concept that was introduced to me based on the work of Elliot Jaques and Ian Macdonald. In my view it completely kills the notion that management and leadership should be separated in practice.

The nonsense debate of “are you a manager, or are you a leader” that pops its head up every so often is not helping as it usually hails the leader as some saint like individual with an awe inspiring vision of a future happy place at the end of a rainbow and the manager as some dreadful task master that just commands people around requiring them to follow the rulebook.

Yes they are two different concepts so Drucker might be correct in his view, however, Mintzberg’s point is more important as all managerial roles carry direct leadership accountability with regard to subordinates. A former colleague of mine Rod Barnett put it well when he in a recent LinkedIn discussion about management vs. leadership succinctly said – people deserve better.

I think Rod is absolutely correct – people do deserve better and no wonder there is a growing movement to fundamentally transform organisations and the way they are managed.

Having said that, taking a systems view of the situation – I do wonder how much of the prevailing way of managing is due to pressures from speculative shareholders demanding increased share prices quarter after quarter.  Since most of us are investors at least through superannuation, are we partly to blame?

The continual growth paradigm is in my view partly to “blame” for this situation.

Especially since that view drives boards and Chief Executives to make short-term initiatives the priority, often at the cost of long-term sustainability.

I am not pursing some crazy left wing tree hugging agenda here, nothing wrong investing in a company and getting a fair return on the investment through dividends or other mechanisms. What I do question is the overall societal benefits of short-term speculation since it does not add direct value to companies and seems to drive all the wrong behaviours.

Many of the advocates for change are referencing W. Edwards Deming and his 14 points and 7 deadly diseases as someone we could look to for advice.

I am big fan of Dr Deming’s work so I can only agree. What I have found though is that some help might be useful to put his ideas into practice and becoming a good leader. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) comprises four parts:

  • Appreciation of a system
  • Knowledge of variation
  • Theory of knowledge
  • Knowledge of psychology

This leadership framework will help translate these four parts (amongst other things). More importantly this framework does not ask if you are a manager or leader? It asks:  You are a Manager, will you be a good or bad leader?

As a side note to SoPK it is worth nothing that understanding variation is of no use when dealing with issues that are in the complex domain, but we will get to that in a later post.

In my next post I will discuss a general-purpose definition of managerial roles and how they add value in a managerial accountability structure.

foundations of good managerial leadership

Over the last year I have with a colleague of mine (Richard Barber), been working on a framework for leadership development built on a strong theoretical base but practical in its application. In this post I will outline the elements of the framework and in subsequent posts I will discuss the parts and how they fit together. The individual parts draw from a number of great organisational thinkers across different disciplines and together I think they provide a great practical guide for leaders at any level. I will try and provide links to the original material to the extent possible and maintain a high standard of referencing.

Some of the material come from a guide a wrote for a client a while back as part of a project designed to build operational leadership capability but as per usual, my thinking has evolved since then and I thought blogging would be a good way to my own thinking fresh. Hopefully these posts will serve a dual purpose; firstly to support my own thinking and development, and secondly, should anyone else happen to stumble upon it and see some value in it well then that fantastic. I would be delighted if you would comment on anything that you think is incorrect or unclear in anyway.

The topics I intend to cover are:

Managerial Leadership

  • Leadership AND Management
  • Decision making
  • Task assignment
  • Performance conversations

Understanding the work

  • Enhancing system performance
  • Enhancing people performance

Leading change

  • Issues with common change management methods
  • Systemic change

Planning

  • Understanding the domain (Cynefin)
  • Sensitive risks

leadership_foundations

Link

making work systems better

link to one of the best books I have come across in a long time – and it’s free! Luc Hoebeke’s Making Work Systems Better. Luc brings together the work of Checkland, Beer and Jaques – three people  whom I admire a lot. Their work have had a profound impact on my understanding of the workings of organisations. Luckily for me Luc is terribly bright and his synthesis provides great insight into the practical application of the work of these three great authors.

Link

levels of work

link to paper by Toby Golsby-Smith from the Australian consulting firm second road. It is a great introduction and development of the concept of levels of work and how to work with it in a large organisation. Part of the issues of poor management that we are experiencing in organisations  comes from work at the higher levels (IV, V and VI) is just not being done or not done well.

Link

web discussion – is management needed

link to a conversation I am having with Jan Höglund on his blog regarding the need for management. There is a lot of conversations in my circles around poor management and the need to change our view of it to create better organisations. Many IT people using Agile for software development are bumping into constraints from the ‘command and control’ style of management. They are certainly not the only ones banging their heads against the wall and feeling frustrated with this way of operating. Having said that I think the move to a radical rethink and restructure like Sociocracy seems like a step that might be too big for most organisations, at least as a first step. Especially since there are alternatives that make use of a hierarchical structure AND provides clarity of purpose, roles, values uses devolved decision making at its core and when implemented does create positive organisations. http://tinyurl.com/nz3tuho

Link

Dynamic Governance Summary

The link provides an overview of the consent decision making process used in sociocracy – a different way of thinking about organisational governance, leadership, and structure. It is a fascinating concept and one that I am excited to learn more about. The fact that it is based on cybernetic principles makes all the time spent getting my head around Beer’s work on the Viable System Model even more well spent.