Questioning which leadership and management style is the most effective one is like people asking what exactly will they be in the future. They will never find the answer until they undergone the real situation. Thus, let’s change the question to which is the most suitable approach in leading people and managing the work.
Nowadays, many people are very concern in differentiating leadership and management. I acknowledge the point to some extent, as it is important to know the difference, however I could not agree more with Sutton (2012), focusing on the difference more than looking at it simultaneously is dangerous.
To begin with, understanding the definition of each is necessary. There are lots of definitions (Torres, 2013; Ratcliffe, 2013; Nayar, 2013), yet basically, Leadership is about influencing and inspiring people while management is managing the work. The distinctions identified are based on their essence, approach and personality. Leaders are a visionary who focus on challenging the status quo, aligning people to the vision by motivating and inspiring them. Management, on the other hand, has their eye on the horizon to perform order and encourage stability by supervising the subordinates. Both are distinct concepts but it is naturally overlapping each other.
There can be as many approaches in leading and managing people, as there are leaders. Like-minded people have developed helpful frameworks to describe the principal ways, which then people can develop it based on the situation and their own approach. Lewin’s (1930) framework in MindTools (2014) could be seen as the foundation of many other approaches. He outlines 3 styles, autocratic, democratic and laissez-fair.
Autocratic leaders make the final decisions without any discussion with the team members. It resembles bureaucratic style that follows rules meticulously and ensures their team members to do the same thing. It is appropriate in making quick decision, however it is obviously inappropriate in most cases as Rausch (2013) argues, leaders should focus more on coaching rather than managing. Nevertheless, I think autocratic is an efficient style in some circumstances, especially in making quick decision. An autocratic style is not simply ruling and ignoring people’s input, however they are trying to minimize the negativity when people spend too much time in dwelling on difficulties rather than finding a solution.
Transactional leaders also adopt autocratic style to some extent because the idea is team members agree to obey their leader; rewards and punishment will be given based on their performance. Joseph McCharty as an example, he often considered as the cruelest political leader because he focus on self-development and results than processes by punishing his people for disobedience and rewarding them for revealing communist liars (Biography, 2015). Yet, the significance that he made can hardly be underestimated at that time. Obviously this style of leadership still can be acceptable depending on the situation.
Democratic leaders include team members in making decisions. They stimulate people’s creativity and encourage them to highly engage in projects. Equally, Transformational leadership style embraces democratic approach to some degree. Bill gates is highly regarded as one of the best transformational leader even though he might exhibit several style of leadership like autocratic (Gilliard, 2014). He is well known as a very demanding leader, who encourages innovation. During his leadership, he would ask his employees to present their ideas regularly and without hesitation he would challenge the ideas. It shows that he is articulating his vision by serving their people needs’, pushing them to their limit and inspiring them through his consistency in maintaining high level of satisfaction combined with his inherent charisma. Those features turned out to be the foundation of Microsoft’s organizational culture.
Nelson Mandela also adopted this approach by leading through his vision; “One day the best parts of humanity would prevail over the worst parts”, which emphasizing forgiveness, reconciliation and positioning others above himself (William, R, 2013). He worked with the same people who put him into jail and even inspired them to be better (Schoemaker, 2013). He visited the Eastern Cope himself that had been shattered by flooding while he could easily summon someone to do that job. Mandela did not force people to follow him; instead he inspired them, which win people’s respect and loyalty. Witnessing that, nobody knows when his influence is going to stop as he kept on transforming people.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Laozi’s depicts the style of Laissez-fair. Such leaders give the entire freedom to their team members in deciding how to work. They simply lead by accommodating the needs of the team and sometimes they do not even hold the formal title as a leader. This reflects the style of servant leadership too. Richard Murphy as an example, is a social policy innovator who founded the Harlem Children’s zone, Beacon schools in New York and many more (Schmitz, 2013). Yet, few people had known him and not much written about him until his necrology. It is a very efficient way of leading as they normally lead by example; however, it is not that efficient in hectic situations.
It is unlikely that a leader like Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela have been as successful as they had if they only adopted one leadership style. None of the leadership style above considers as the most effective one. It all depends on the situation and position, which is why combining push and pull strategy is as critical as balancing leaders and managers in an organization.
As mentioned above, it is very dangerous to focusing on the difference between leader and manager because it could be the basis of their action and thinking. For example, a boss that only cares about big picture without trying to understand any underlying aspects will never be the best bosses because they tend to blame others when things go wrong (Sutton, 2012). Having only leaders without managers and vice versa also will never make things happen because essentially the best leaders are the best managers.
Nonetheless, I think at least each leader should adopt transformational in their leadership style and the rest will follow depending on the situation. As long as leaders put other’s interest above themselves, have willingness to change and develop as well as devoted to his vision instead of glory, they are a truly leader.
“When you live on the hearts of those you love, you will never die”
Biography (2015), Joseph McCarthy, [Online] available at <http://www.biography.com/people/joseph-mccarthy-9390801 > [13 March 2015]
Dr, Torres, L, S (2013), Leadership vs Management: Differences and Similarities, [Online] available at <http://www.creditunionbusiness.com/2013/09/19/leadership-vs-management-differences-and-similarities/> [11 March 2015]
Gilliard, M (2014), Bill Gates leadership style, [Online] available at <http://leadership-and-development.com/bill-gates-leadership-style/ > [13 March 2015]
Mindtools (2014), Leadership styles, [Online] available at <http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm> [13 March 2015]
Nayar, V (2013), Three differences between managers and leaders, [Online] available at <https://hbr.org/2013/08/tests-of-a-leadership-transiti > [12 March 2015]
Ratcliffe, R (2013), What’s the difference between leadership and management, [Online] available at<http://careers.theguardian.com/difference-between-leadership-management> [11 March 2015]
Rausch, T (2013), Nobody wants to be managed, [Online] available at <http://leadershipbeyondlimits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/nobody-wants-to-be-managed.html > [13 March 2015]
Schmitz, P (2013), Richard Murphy: A powerful example of servant leadership, [Online] available at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-schmitz/true-servant-leadership-f_b_3016044.html > [13 March 2015]
Schoemaker, P (2013), Nelson Mandela, Transformational leader, [Online] available at <http://www.inc.com/paul-schoemaker/what-made-mandela-a-transformational-leader.html > [13 March 2015]
Sutton, I, R (2012), Why “Big picture only” bosses are the worst, [Online] available at <http://www.fastcompany.com/1825733/why-big-picture-only-bosses-are-worst> [10 March 2015]
William, R (2013), Why Nelson Mandela was a great leader, [Online] <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201312/why-nelson-mandela-was-great-leader > [13 March 2015]