Managers and Leaders: Why Companies Need to Hit a Healthy Balance?

  • June 6, 2019
Managers vs Leaders
Managers vs Leaders

Few days back, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and I got to know about his recent promotion. When I probed to know more, he sounded sarcastic – ‘I am a team manager now!’. I congratulated him of course and felt happy for his raise and just casually asked how he felt about this newly gained designation and he replied back with the same indifference saying, ‘well, I see other managers and their not-so-nice ways of manipulating subordinates, so I am fearing that now I am in the same boat.’ I wasn’t sure how exactly to respond but I managed to say that not every finger of a hand are alike and that he might make a positive difference to his team. To this he said, ‘companies mostly expect the managers to get jobs done, anyhow and through any means and sometimes that gets really messy while dealing with people.’ I thought it best to cut short the conversation as he clearly needed some time to reflect and so did I.

What’s wrong with the millennial managers?

This discussion with my friend forced me to contemplate about why the millennials get disillusioned so fast as they grow up the ladder? I dug up some information and articles from the internet and have come across a very interesting blog from the website of ‘Great Place to Work.’ Reading it thoroughly revealed some striking facts and suddenly I could relate to the conversation with my friend. The blog clearly says that with time and responsibilities, millennials thrive in their careers but at the same time they lose interest to stick to the organization with the same zeal they started with. Which means, once they reach their goal of becoming managers, they face disappointments. Often, they confront undue management pressures to make the team work in a way that doesn’t reverberate with their own set of values (personal and professional), and sometimes they are forced to give in to measures and practices that are influenced by manipulation, hoarding information, micro-management, favouritism, biasness, perceptions and our tendency of social comparison. So, where does the solution lies? In an overall shift in the thought-process, especially of organization leaders and decision-makers. Companies must realize that to retain the top talents, they must rethink their management structure and job roles and functionalities. Millennials love to work through transparency, approachability, inclusivity, great relationships, fairness and efficiency and companies must reshape their leadership framework if needed, to create a positive and inspirational environment to drive the millennial managers sustain the growth-oriented business plans.

A fading line or a clear distinction – what do we need between leaders and managers?

I personally find it frustrating when people use the terms, leader and manager, interchangeably. I mean, there have always been stark differences between a leader and a manager, as we have always known. And conventionally speaking, for most companies, this distinction works for their business and their employees. The image might summarize the differences between the two quite well.

But, when I gave it a deeper thought, I found that organizations should ideally have a fine balance of both inspirational leaders and intelligent managers. In a perfect situation, the distinction between managers and leaders should be fading away to allow both of them to share their distinct qualities. In simple words, companies need leaders with management qualities and managers with leadership skills, to drive an efficient, productive, motivated bunch of happy employees.

I thought of asking some of my friends, who are doing pretty good in their professions and have gained considerable expertise in their fields, a simple question: what companies need more, leaders, managers or a mix of both?

This is what they have shared with me.

Do we need better managers, or do we need good leaders? No one has been able to capture this debate more subtly than the satirical comic strip “Dilbert”. In one of the slides, Dilbert’s micromanaging manager rebukes Dilbert for taking a year to develop a ground-breaking microchip saying, “do you know, how many meetings I can take in a year?”. Honestly, we need more leaders in a high performing organization, to help foster a sense of purpose, drive performance and innovation and foster an environment of self-motivation. Does that mean we need less managers? The answer is no. In fact, good leaders always encompass qualities of a manager, which makes it a good idea to identify good leaders and put them in mid management positions. Companies should focus more to promote and hire motivated individuals who are best at their jobs and have the abilities to be future leaders rather than getting typical control-freak managers onboard,” says Anurag Choubey who works as a Sr. Business Consultant for Adobe India.

Ram Menon, who works as a Regional Marketing Manager, Shell India, gave me an interesting insight from his company – “I personally believe there should be a good ratio of leaders to managers. Shell Lubricants where I am currently working is one good example of this fitment. Here, we have a clear defined structure of Line Managers. For instance, my boss reports to what we call LT or Leadership Teams. Typically, one LT member doesn’t have not have more than 3 to 5 managers reporting into them, who are Leaders of Team or ‘LoT’ and we as Individual Performers report to these managers. This helps the leader to be able to help coach and mentor each member of his team and these managers then pass on the same guidance and inputs to us. This helps in a very systematic and coordinated professional development process within the organization.”

In addition to finding ways to accomplish the assignments at hand, managers should thrive on instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership in every employee to do their best. I know it’s easier said than done; however, it’s doable with the right kind of direction, trust, appreciation, encouragement, and a feedback mechanism. I have seen first-hand starters scale up quickly when guided by managers with the right amount of operational and leadership supervision. I also have seen professionals hate their managers and promptly move out with anguish because their potential was not rightly recognized and leveraged. In the end, it is the organizations alone that gain or lose based on what their people supervisors are preaching. I believe companies need more managers with leadership skills,” responded Surajit Nath, Director – Marketing Research & Insights at Bython Media.

Yash Kulshresth, Creative Director at Dentsu Webchutney shared his take, “It’s 2019, and we are nonchalantly still answering questions from the last decade. We are living in the most volatile and exciting marketing times, where one needs to exhibit a multitude of personalities. A manager cannot smoothly run processes without a vision, and a leader cannot earn respect without demonstrating their managerial skills. Leadership is emotional pay-off and management is a functional output for the team. The leaders or managers of today need to create a level-headed playing-field where control and trust, respect and obedience, diligence and aspirations co-exist and prosper. Leaders or managers who are stuck in the traditional hierarchy pyramid will rust themselves out soon.”

To sum it up, companies need to play nice with a healthy balance while optimizing the values of both able managers and visionary leaders. The best practice is to nurture a corporate culture that imbibes the best of both worlds and treat each employee as a future leader and train them to pursue effective yet non-conventional managerial qualities. Above all, companies must harbour an environment of trust, transparency, responsibility, ownership, innovation, flexibility and motivation. This will not only inspire one and all to manage their and the teams’ tasks but will also inspire every employee to work towards a common organizational goal and vision.

About the Author

Sonali has an extensive experience in content writing, marketing, and strategy and she has worked with companies where she was involved in the 360-degree content production and editing. An avid reader and animal lover, she loves to cook, take care of her plants and travel.

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