Leadership and Management

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Leadership and management go hand in hand, they are different and yet also have massive overlaps in both meaning and application. The terms “leadership” and “management” are often used interchangeably. While there is some overlap between the work that leaders and managers do, there are also significant differences.

Let’s look at some definitions to help, or maybe hinder, our understanding…

Leadership – the action of leading a group of people or an organization

Synonyms – guidance | direction | authority | control | management | supervision | initiative | influence

Management – the process of dealing with or controlling things or people

Synonyms – running | direction | control | governing | administration | supervision

According to my experience and research – leaders inspire people to achieve broad outcomes and objectives, and managers direct and monitor how people get the work done. Leadership is more of a macro concept and management is more of a micro concept.

“Leadership provides the inspiration and a vision to guide change required to achieve outcomes despite obstacles.”

We know this can be within a team, a department, or an organisation and it can be even bigger than that! Leaders can shape what happens in our countries and around the globe.

“Management is directing how the tasks are completed to support both day to day operations and the bigger outcomes that support the overarching vision.”

So, leaders imagine and inspire the way forward, whilst managers figure out how to make it happen. Many people are expected to be BOTH leaders and managers in their roles. It is often a matter of seniority and where they fit in the hierarchy.

Harvard Business School Professors Nancy Koehn and Joe Fuller have explored the interplay between leadership and management and provide 3 key dimensions to support understanding of the differences.

  1. Process vs Vision – effective leadership provides the vision to guide change towards future opportunities and outcomes, whilst effective managers concentrate on implementing ways of working to progress tasks that are components of the overall objectives. Leaders imagine and drive the change and managers ensure people get organised and are supported to effectively deliver.

“It’s the process of working with others to ensure the effective execution of a chosen set of goals. Leadership is about developing what the goals should be. It’s more about driving change.” Koehn and Fuller

  1. Organising vs Aligning – Managers organise people and processes to achieve, whilst leaders are less focused on how to organise getting the work done and more focused on how to influence everyone to ensure the outcomes align with the organisational vision.

Warren Bennis was a pioneer in the field of leadership studies. In his book, On Becoming a Leader, he provides a useful summary of key differences between managers and leaders, including –

“The manager administers; the leader innovates”

“The manager maintains; the leader develops”

“The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people” Warren Bennis

There is a profound difference both in engagement and outcomes when managers complement their approach to supervising their teams with improved personal leadership skills that enable them to empower and inspire their teams to believe in and contribute to important organisational initiatives.

  1. Position vs Quality – The title “manager” often indicates that someone has a particular position within the organisational hierarchy, whilst referring to someone as a “leader” tends to have a more dynamic and broader meaning.

In a recent article for Forbes, leadership coach Doc Norton explains “Manager is a title. It’s a role and set of responsibilities. Having the position of manager does not make you a leader. The best managers are leaders, but the two are not synonymous. Leadership is the result of action. If you act in a way that inspires, encourages, or engages others, you are a leader. It doesn’t matter your title or position.”

So, a manager is a position or role that is normally obtained through successful delivery, organisational skills and experience. Leadership is a quality that is innate in some people and can be developed in others through the application of emotional intelligence, communication and influencing skills. Managers tend to be more successful when they also possess or cultivate leadership skills. Whereas senior leaders often don’t need to get their hands dirty with day-to-day supervision or processes.

Legal Leadership

Being a leader in a legal environment (whether in-house or external) is challenging and may not suit everyone. It is more challenging for lawyers stepping up into either management or leadership roles, as lawyers in general have higher rates of introversion and higher preferences for lone working.

Across the legal profession, there are many transformative changes underway that are pushing more lawyers into leadership and management roles. New ways of working like Legal Project Management, Legal Process Improvement and Legal Operations are here to stay and gaining traction. Legal teams that wish to be successful in the 21st century require leaders to have the vision to set an agenda for changes in legal practice, as well as managers to direct these new ways of working.

We see new roles internally such as Legal Chief of Staff, as well as new roles externally for Heads of Legal Transformation and Legal Pricing Officers – these tend towards the leadership side of the scale.

We see other roles internally such as Legal Operations Managers, and externally for Legal Project Managers. These tend to be management roles that are more successful when those chosen also possess excellent leadership skills.

So, what is required to be an effective legal leader? Here are some common skills that will assist –

  1. Collaboration and partnering – internally and with clients
  2. Influence and communication
  3. Informed judgment in decision-making
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Rapport and relationship-building
  6. Diplomacy and compassion
  7. Strategic thinking and risk-taking
  8. Commitment to performance improvement and growth
  9. Innovation and change management
  10. High ethical standards

Legal People Management

Many lawyers find themselves in leadership or management roles by virtue of their technical legal expertise and this doesn’t set them up for success when they start managing their teams. I’m often surprised by the lack of people management training available to emerging legal leaders.

Many techniques and frameworks exist to support legal leaders in the management of individuals and teams. I developed the Adaptive Leadership Model™ when I was lecturing at the College of Law and included it in my book Legal Project Management, LexisNexis, 2014.

It is the culmination of decades of leadership training, successful leadership roles, extensive reading, observation, and reflection. The core premise is that leaders best support their teams to achieve exceptional results by tailoring their own leadership style to the specific preferences of the individual team member and the specific circumstances of the work. Thus, the Adaptive Leadership Model™ was created.

The leader needs to be adaptable rather than force team members to conform to their preferred leadership style.

From Situational Leadership® to Adaptive Leadership™

Before I developed the Adaptive Leadership Model™, my go-to model was Situational Leadership® – developed in the mid-1970s by Dr Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. This model is built around the belief that leaders need to adapt their leadership style in order to assist each individual team member to achieve their full potential in any given circumstance.

The following model of Adaptive Leadership for Managing Individual Performance brings together many of the techniques and concepts from Situational Leadership®, emotional and social intelligence, as well as theories on personal motivation.

According to Blanchard, there are four main leadership styles. The same leadership styles are used in the Adaptive Leadership Model illustrated above –

Directing– characterized as high directive and low supporting. The Leader provides specific objectives for the task and then maps out the process in detail for how the task will be accomplished. The leader also closely supervises progress and makes corrections when required.

Coaching– characterized as both high directive and high supporting. The leader explains processes and decisions and encourages participation by the team members in the refinement of the approach. The leader considers input from the team members but makes the overall decisions about how tasks will be accomplished.

Supporting – characterized as low directive and high supporting. The leader encourages the team members through guiding discussions to develop their own approach to the task. Allowing the team members to learn through problem-solving and by designing their own process.

Delegating – characterized as both low directive and low supporting. The leader provides the right resources and environment and then empowers the team members to undertake the task according to their own processes and judgment.

What is your natural leadership style?

I have used this concept for decades and the more you consciously choose the leadership style for each team member the easier and more natural it becomes. You can’t always get the perfect match so it’s important to be flexible and adjust along the way.

Even more critical is to realise that you don’t use the same style for a team member in every situation – one day you might be asking them to undertake a task that is well within their capabilities so you can delegate. Another day you may be asking them to take on a task that is a big stretch for their current capabilities so you may choose coaching or directive depending on their level of confidence.

“In order to achieve the optimum performance from each individual, the leader chooses the style that will best match the task and the team member or individual.”

All people managers have a preferred style of leadership that is their automatic go-to style. It is possible to consciously select the style that will obtain the best performance from each team member in each interaction or task assignment.

Your primary leadership style is the one you use automatically without even thinking about it. Put yourself in the shoes of your team members and consider how a poor choice of leadership style may impact their performance. Indeed, you may have some examples where you have consistently used your preferred style, and this has caused friction and lowered performance for some team members.

How does leadership impact performance?

Think of examples where your manager has used a style that didn’t work for you in relation to a particular task and ask yourself the following questions –

  1. How did you feel and what happened when your manager used a directive style even though you were very experienced with the particular task?
  2. Have they ever thrown a task at you with no context and no instructions and left you to figure it out even though you have no experience with that particular task? How did you feel and what happened in terms of task performance?

Now, put yourself in the shoes of your team members and ask yourself again – would any of them benefit from a different leadership style?

Once I have introduced this model to workshop participants, I am regularly regaled with stories where people have been extremely frustrated and de-motivated when their leader has chosen the incorrect style, or most likely simply reverted to their preferred style with no conscious thought.

In general, a directive style is used when an individual is highly experienced and highly confident, then they will most likely execute the task well but become disengaged and frustrated. They will often be discouraged from using their initiative or sharing their thoughts on improvements in the future. This in turn reduces the overall potential of the individual and possibly the team.

At the other end of the spectrum as the examples where a highly delegative style has been used for an individual who is inexperienced and lacking in confidence, this normally results in a poor quality outcome, stress for the individual and frustration for the leader.

“Leadership style of individual managers accounts for up to 70% of the difference in employee motivation and productivity.” Gallup Employee Engagement Survey

This really sums up the message to always consider your impact on the performance of your teams and every team member.

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