Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Leader Manager Cycle

Management development programs just aren't trendy any more. Everybody wants to be a leader. Well, you can't be a leader. In a hierarchical organisation, there can be only one. And you all have to follow him or her.

On the other hand, perhaps anyone can be a leader, and everyone will be a leader at some time, in some situation. If there's a fire in your office, does your CEO overrule the appointed fire marshall? As I've recently written in another article, the debate over whether leaders are born or bred can be settled as follows: Leaders are born, in that we are all born with the capacity to lead. Some people are bred to develop those innate qualities.

In any organisation, we see the same fundamental conflict that exists within all of us who suffer from this affliction called 'the human condition' - we want to be here, and we want to be somewhere else. We want more, without losing what we have. We want to be comfortable, and at peace, and content, and we want to be up and moving towards some new goal that has caught our eye. We can't have it both ways.

This is the organisational conflict of maintenance versus development. We want the organisation to grow, but we can't stop doing the things that we're doing. We have to pay the bills and look to the future, and the organisation that balances both of those will tend to be more successful over time. In a river, you have to swim to stay in the same place, and in an evolving market, you have to innovate just to stay where you are.

How does this relate to management and leadership?

The difference between management and leadership must first be defined, as follows. Management is the practice of maintaining the operations of an organisation, whereas leadership is the practice of developing the operations of an organisation. A manager is concerned with day-to-day activities, staff well-being and annual targets. A leader is concerned with strategy, growth and new opportunities. Therefore, there is always a balance between maintaining the organisation as it is today, versus reshaping it for the future.

Overall, management development will strengthen best practice in day-to-day operations, but will tend to maintain the organisation as it is today. Even if the organisation has no growth plans, the market is evolving, and competition is increasing from both local and foreign players. If the organisation is unable to respond to market changes then every new development becomes a significant threat, eroding markets and shifting customer focus to more exciting competitors.

Leadership development has the potential to strengthen best practice in growing and adapting the organisation to change. In an evolving market, an organisation must adapt just to maintain its current position. With strong leadership skills at both the local and head office levels, and effective communication between the two, market innovations transform from a threat to an opportunity, with access to customers and market channels that were not previously available. Growth in the business drives the need for new management practices, which in turn feeds back into management development, and the two areas work together in a complementary cycle.

If you're a gardener, do you plant new seeds or mow the lawn?

If you're an engineer, do you create new machines or fix the old ones?

If you're a chef, do you deliver customer orders or create new recipes?

The reality is that serving your current customers looks to the past, and finding new customers looks to the future, and that is the essential conflict that plagues us. Other lifeforms just exist in the moment. Our advanced brains deny us that pleasure, giving us both memories and imaginations that create new realities.

Whatever you do for a living, you need to juggle both; past and future, to maintain and to create. It is in our nature, and it's something we were all born to excel at.

It's not a choice or a compromise between leading and managing. You need to do both.


Peter Freeth is a leadership and talent expert who is currently juggling the past and future whilst also creating new insights to share with others.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Happy 40th Birthday, Glass Ceiling

'The glass ceiling' is 40 years old, but I believe it has evolved, now there are two. The glass ceiling that Marilyn Loden spoke about was a barrier of discrimination, and now that barrier is dissolving. Maybe some people think not quickly enough. Certainly when the Mayor of London says that he's working hard to remove the gender pay gap, some people think that all you have to do is give women a pay rise. Critics say it's not that easy. I tend to think it is - though it does hike the wage bill significantly.

When companies such as Hugo Boss 'accidentally' submit the wrong data on their gender pay gap reports, implying incorrectly that they pay everyone equally (until challenged by the Government Equalities Office), it does make it seem less likely that this is going to be resolved any time soon.

However, the thing about a glass ceiling is that it is transparent from both directions. Organisational managers have always known that there's a pay gap, so why has it been allowed to persist? Simply, because if managers can get away with paying people less, they will do. And when "it's the way things are", who has the courage to make a fuss? If you push too hard at the interview, they'll hire someone else, and once you're hired, it's almost impossible to change. Just try getting a pay rise over the rate of inflation.

So the situation persists because that's the way the system is. As soon as you hire someone on an equal pay basis, everyone else in the organisation cries foul. So yes, from the point of view of salary costs, it's something that has to change gradually.

But this is a situation that affects millions of workers, who are paid less for all kinds of reasons, despite producing the same output and working the same hours. This is a generic situation, and since the 1980s we've had individual appraisals and performance related pay, and that has led to a situation where no-one is looking out for your career plans. You have to do that yourself, and that in turn leads to the second glass ceiling.

For all your working life, you have been rewarded for doing certain things. Perhaps for being a super salesperson, or a tough manager, or an aggressive buyer. Every time you got a pay rise or promotion, you thought that was the reason why. Eventually, you will reach the stage where the qualities that got you to where you are become the very things that prevent you from getting any further. At a certain stage in your career, you have to reinvent yourself, and that means letting go of all the things that you've been rewarded for until now, which are all the things that you think you value most about yourself.

In order to move forwards, you have to let go of the familiar, you have to step off the edge. Maybe, we can all do that together.


Peter Freeth is a talent expert and author, currently working on a new book that helps high potentials to get noticed and achieve their career aspirations.

You can help with the research for the book (and even get a credit) by visiting the Genius website and completing two short surveys.