Management or leadership? Four words that will help you decide.


I often get asked what’s the difference between management and leadership. For me each is characterised by just four words. You can spot a manager a mile off because they operate through the four P’s – Position, Power, Policy and Procedure.

Managers rely on organisation charts and structures for their authority. They’re the boss because their position tells you so. Status – and therefore job titles – are often really important as that’s a public statement of rank. They like the “chain of command” and resent people who go around it.

Managers see it as their job to tell people what to do – ie exercise Power. And they love rules (ie policy and procedure) as that legitimises “how things are done around here”. Lord help us if the staff start to make decisions for themselves.

Of course, all those rules need enforcing. So, managers feel the need to constantly check up on people to ensure they are being followed. That way lies micro-management and as a result trust goes out of the window.

Staff don’t trust managers as they feel they are constantly trying to catch them breaking the rules. Managers assume they can’t trust people unless they can constantly observe them complying with the rules. A recent study by the ILM shows the impact that this can have.  It found that a lack of employee empowerment is the root cause of much workplace dissatisfaction, and more than half of employees would consider leaving if the structure and culture of the organisation didn’t change.  Further to that, although two-thirds (66 per cent) of employees want a greater say in their everyday working lives, just 24 per cent said they felt their line managers fostered collaboration.

The outcome of this vicious circle is that it effectively allows people to abdicate accountability. The rules becoming a line of defence rather than a quality standard. It might be wrong for the customer, client or patient but that’s what the rules say, so I have to do it.. After all, “I was only following orders”.

So where is HR in all this? My fear is that it was called Personnel Management for a reason. Creating lots of policies and procedures that tell people what to do… And investing lots of time telling the business off for not following them. Often in a sort of “Nanny knows best” way. You can change the name to HR but has the leopard really changed its spots?

For me leaders live by the four C’s – Choice, Culture, Clarity and Commitment.

People choose who to follow – they aren’t compelled. Leaders can operate with the minimum of structure and generally aren’t bothered by job titles or symbols of status. They operate instead through competency and integrity.

The world today is defined by complexity, change and uncertainty. The harsh truth is that no policy or set of procedures can anticipate every possible situation. The world is fluid and your customers and clients expect you to be responsive to the changing landscape.

Leaders recognise that by creating cultures where people instinctively know how to “do the right thing”. That’s because they are clear about the organisation’s values and the behaviours they require. They also know that even if they get it wrong they won’t be punished. That’s because leaders are trusted.

Leaders also ensure that their people are clear about the outcomes they need to achieve. They then leave people to get on with it. They can do that because they hired people who are a great cultural fit – not just technically competent. They believe they will make the right decisions because they live the organisations values through their actions, behaviours and decisions.

What leaders get in return for trust is commitment. People feel empowered. And empowered people take pride in what they do. They haven’t “followed orders” – they’ve made choices, responded to clients and customers and added value through creativity and innovation.

For me the future of HR is developing and empowering leaders. And in the process tearing up loads of policies and procedures that basically say to them “we don’t trust you” to do the right thing with our people.

A business full of leaders will have fewer people issues as they will be more passionate, empowered and engaged. More engaged people means lower turnover and less hiring. As a result, the business will probably need a much smaller HR team. However, they will be more influential and respected because the leaders will know who made it all possible. That’s right, the people who helped them develop the right culture, hire the right people, coach leaders and exit those who don’t live by the values of the business. And all achieved with the minimum of policies, procedures and process.

Written by Ian Gooden, CEO of Chiumento Group.  For more information on how we can help with any outplacement, talent management or recruitment needs please get in touch. 020 7224 3307

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