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Let’s get rid of this idea that all managers are leaders

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

The transformation agenda in many organisations stalled or was never fully owned further down the organisation. Management consultants popularised the notion that this was not the fault of enthusiastic and energetic senior management teams or ambitious and visionary boards but the ordinary manager who simply wasn’t equipped with the necessary leadership  skills.

For a very reasonable fee these management consultants could turn all managers into leaders. And so management development programs became leadership development programs for all managers. Admittedly they often didn’t get further down than middle management before the cost proved too expensive. But the rhetoric and expectation was loudly proclaimed, “All managers are leaders”.

If only  all managers could show leadership skills, be able to inspire their team, have a clear vision and take responsibility. Then organisations would be transformed, more efficient, more agile, more competitive, more like the board wanted them to be.  Unfortunately most managers were not appointed /recruited with this in mind  but because of their technical skills and specialist  knowledge.

What was not acknowledged at the time but is now recognised is most  managers don’t want to be leaders they are happy to be administrators, they find managing staff troublesome and wearing, they certainly don’t feel able to inspire them. They feel more comfortable saying senior management/the board has decided rather than owning unpopular or controversial  decisions. They don’t have the big picture and don’t feel they need it to do the job as they are focused on the immediate tasks in front of them.

We can of course expect all managers to demonstrate good people skills that is be able to motivate individuals, provide helpful feedback, provide  support and show concern for the individuals health and well-being, challenge unacceptable behaviour, set and monitor standards of work. But we do not need all managers to be leaders.

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