I always fondly remember memorable and enjoyable moments at the mine. Particularly, the good and practical lessons on management and leadership that I assimilated from some of the best managers I worked with. Undeniably, my tenure at the mine improved and enhanced my knowledge of management and leadership, mostly from my immediate supervisor. In fact, the last five years of my career at one of the mining towns here in Botswana were the best and invaluable years of life because of that man. I know some of you may be wondering why those years were so impactful to both my personal and professional life. Indeed, most if not all the sublime skills and expertise in negotiating, presentations, report writing and customer relationships management both internal and external I honed them through the tutelage of my supervisor. He theoretically and practically guided and mentored me in all aspects of my career.
Most of you will presume that this was always a smooth and enjoyable ride but alas, I had to humble myself as I was sometimes sternly reprimanded and corrected to make sure I remained firmly rooted on my career path. At the same time, we also enjoyed our social life outside working hours. He knew how to make a distinction between social and professional life. According to him, the two could be mixed but the situation would dictate which one applies and how. In both emerging and established economies, value is increasingly driven from personnel expertise and knowledge. Typically, employees are no longer undifferentiated like cogs in an industrial machine. There should be differentiation between management and leadership although they are not easily separated. Naturally, employees look up to their managers not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose of their role in an organisation.
Instead of maximising efficiency, all managers must organise and direct workers to fulfil their tasks, nurture skills, develop talent and inspire attainment of results. A manager is somebody who follows a leader and sees how to structure things to create value for the company. In my life, I have observed and realised that the best leaders were not necessarily good managers. Yes, they understood the discipline, but they were not the best accountant, or, the best technical person, or the best brand manager. They can do it, but they have a way of thinking about the issues at another level. On the other hand, a leader is somebody who envisions the future and sees and embraces opportunities and strategises to make sure that the vision comes to reality. A leader walks the talk in order to ensure execution of all activities that leads to fulfilment of the vision. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders inspire people follow them while managers direct and control people directly under them to ensure the desire outcomes are achieved. The late management guru Peter Drucker was one of the first to recognise this truth, as he was to recognise so many other management truths. He identified the emergence of the “knowledge worker,” and the profound differences that would cause in the way business was organised. With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people,” Mr. Drucker wrote. “The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual. Leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked and complementary”. In India, M.K. Gandhi inspired millions of people to fight for their rights and he walked shoulder to shoulder with them so India could achieve independence in 1947. His vision became everyone’s dream and ensured that the country’s push for independence was unstoppable. The world needs leaders like him who can think beyond problems, have a vision, and inspire people to convert challenges into opportunities, a step at a time. Leaders like him are vital to turn around the organisations. Not all human beings are the same. A basic concept, but something that is often overlooked! You have cultural perspectives, language barriers, different educational backgrounds, personality traits and varying value systems with which individuals come pre-conditioned that greatly affect how information is processed and interpreted. Some people work well under pressure, others do not. Some respond best to tough love, others take it personally and shut down.
In order to optimise your effectiveness as a leader, you must have the ability to customise your approach on a person-by-person basis, based on the situation at hand. Your capacity to execute this concept will play a huge role in your ability to get the best work out of your team and other partners along the journey. The difference between managers and leaders lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully. If you think you are just a manager, then chances are you are missing a load of opportunity to achieve new heights of team success. Also, if this is you, spend some time finding out what your employees think of you and how they feel in their roles. Chances are they may not be that impressed. On the other end of the spectrum, if you think you are just a leader then there may be some things you may be missing out on, and that could be structure and systems to support the team. If you lack management skills, then you may be seen as too informal and off the hoof in decision-making. You may not have a handle on the things that keep the team and business moving forward. In my opinion, the bottom line is that you need to mix both up.