Wednesday, June 12, 2024

About power, leadership and management


Last week we saw elections in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while elections in Afghanistan were being postponed. What struck we while watching the news coverage of these elections is that the media consistently referred to power. It is about getting into power, remaining in power, handing over power and so on. I guess this illustrates the misunderstanding that many have about what it means to be elected by people to govern a country. To lead a government is in my opinion not about being in power; it is instead about having been given the trust, the confidence, the mandate to serve the people, lead a government and manage its resources well. If this is not so the case, then we do not have to refer to a process called elections, during which all sides claim fraud even before the first votes have been counted. Getting into power seems to me is the result of forcing oneself into position, rather than seeking a mandate. It is leaders and good managers who will be given a mandate instead, based on their vison and track records. We need both leaders and managers, not power mongers. What do we then mean by leadership and management, whether in government or business? Some time ago I wrote in this column about leadership and we looked into the difference between leadership and management as follows:
Leadership Management
Leaders are people who do the right thing. Managers are people who do things right.
Leadership is about coping with change. Management is about coping with complexities.
Leadership has a sense of movement about it. Management is about handling things, about maintaining order, about organization and control.
Leaders are concerned with what things mean to people. Managers are concerned about how things get done.
Leaders are the architects. Managers are the builders.
Leadership focuses on the creation of a common vision. Management is the design of work. It’s about controlling.

Looking at both columns again, we need to realize that both management and leadership are vital and that one without the other is not sufficient. In other words, with much attention focusing on leadership today, we must not neglect the importance of management. What is interesting to observe is that leaders, the visionaries, often have a hard time managing. They therefore better delegate the management of the company or the organization to people whose strength lies in management. The point is you can lead people, not things. Things – not having the freedom to choose – are managed and controlled, like money, costs, information, time, structures, systems, processes, inventory, assets, facilities and tools for example. Sometimes people choose to be managed under their own leadership, not exercising their ability and freedom to choose. Leadership in comparison, is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. How to do this well is not that easy though and here follow some suggestion that may help in exercising effective leadership.
An effective leader must be able to communicate. Great leaders have the ability to visually communicate their message to people and they understand that one of their key tasks is to find ways to grow people. You see, you can’t do it all by yourself and it is therefore important to find a way to get much of your vision seen, implemented and added to by others. The leader sees the big picture but (s)he also sees the necessity of sharing that picture with others who can help in making it reality.
An effective leader is creative in handling problems. The ability to creatively find solutions will determine the success or failure of each difficulty. Key is to use a crisis as an opportunity for change. Like every coin has its flipside, most problems bring along a window for opportunities. When we begin to look for opportunities through these windows which we never saw before because we are comfortable or caught in the situation we are in, we will begin looking at things positively and learn to be creative, sometimes referred to as “thinking out of the box”.
An effective leader is a generous contributor. Turning our mindset around, the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him/her but the number of people (s)he serves. Real leaders have something to give and they give it freely.
An effective leader acts consistently. People need to be able to depend on their leaders. The moment a leader becomes inconsistent, people will lose their confidence and will stop trusting that person. And this is something we see happening around us all the time, even at home where parents are strict on a certain issue today and allow the children to do the very same thing tomorrow. In the process the children begin to lose respect for their parents and find ways to take advantage of their parents’ inconsistent behaviour. Similarly, people would rather follow a leader they disagree with than one they agree with but is constantly changing positions.
Now, leadership is not something set aside for senior executives who perpetuate the prevailing mindset that says: “The boss does all the important thinking and decision making around here.” No, everyone can be a leader, regardless of position as longs as we take our own responsibility and live by principles that guide our personal leadership. Remember the proverb that says:
He who thinks that he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk.

Ton Haverkort
“Be a People Person – Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships” by John C. Maxwell , “The 8th HABIT – From Effectiveness to Greatness” by Stephen R. Covey

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