Why Modern Management is so Hard

Modern managers have it hard.  In ‘the good old days’ managers could expect to simply dictate targets, set tasks and instruct their staff.  What a wonderful world that must have been for managers!

Leadership and Politics

The New Machiavelli, by Jonathan Powell Jonathan Powell has recently added the fourth corner of pyramid of books about Tony Blair’s administration, following those of Blair himself, Mandelson and Campbell.  It received less coverage than the others but what struck me was that he has used Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ as his framework.  So that’s the one I’ll be hoping for come the overflowing half-price offers at Christmas.  I’ve been fascinated by the Florentine since seeing him in a walk-on part in Marlowe’s ‘The Jew of Malta’ at the RSC.  (John Carlisle played him and Alun Armstrong the Jew, Barabus.  What a fabulous year that was at the RSC!)

The Prince

ThePrince It sent me scurrying to my well-thumbed Penguin edition which, even when I bought it over ten years ago was three times as expensive at a charity shop than the cover price; which appears to make scrappy paperbacks a good investment. (Scrappy now: not when it was published, I have to add, as Pearson are also publishing two of my books later this year!)

Three passages caught my attention.  Firstly, it seems that written leadership theory goes back not to Machiavelli at all, as I would have said yesterday, but to the Bible and Moses, which Signor M cites in discussing the role of fortune.

Second – and make of it what your political leanings will – Machiavelli takes sides on the current economic debate in the UK, saying that the Prince should inflict all injuries in one go, and confer benefits steadily. So, at last we see where George Osborne’s playbook comes from.

Okay Mike, stop digressing

Third, and most relevant, Machiavelli draws clear distinctions between leaders and managers that resonate through the modern leadership thinkers who influence business training and management schools today.

I don’t have the space to recount my favourite leadership models, but suffice to say; most of them emphasise that the role of a leader is not to manage: it is to lead.

Leaders Lead: Managers Manage

A smart leader lets their managers get on with the day-to-day running of the business, and that creates an easy division which is often represented in tables like this:

Managers_vs_Leaders

I am sure many trainers reading this blog have facilitated sessions that have ended up with very similar flip charts!  This comparison between leaders and managers was first made by Warren Bennis, in response to an HBR article by Abraham Zaleznik in 1977.

So why do Managers have it so hard?

If a smart leader lets their managers manage, then they only have one job to do: leadership.  But modern managers are constantly – and rightly – being reminded that our society demands leadership at every level.

Blame Douglas McGregor if you will.  His same Theory Y encouraged both managers to stop their easy command and control behaviours (of which Machiavelli would heartily have approved) and encouraged leadership thinkers like Bert Nanus and Warren Bennis to articulate a truly modern theory of leadership.

Leadership at every level and bringing the best out of every employee goes beyond indulging uppity managers in calling themselves leaders; it demands that all managers are leaders.

So here’s the deal

So there we have it:  Leaders lead but managers manage and lead.  No wonder so many people would rather be a leader than a manager – it’s any easier job!

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

If you are just a leader, you’ll want:

The Leadership PocketbookThe Leadership Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Empowerment Pocketbook

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If you are a manger, you may also want:

The Manager's PocketbookThe Manager’s Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook
(which contains two of the very best models of leadership)

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