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Lead and Manage – Team Leaders Need To Do Both

The more common management and leadership activities that leaders of professional teams undertake. It will be evident that both leading and managing are important for continuing success. Good leaders cope effectively with the management basics. They also have the skills to enthuse others to change, get a team to work together, secure agreement on key issues and inspire by example. It is useful, however, to make a distinction between management and leadership for two reasons. The first is that management is a crucial function in ensuring that short-term high-quality results are delivered. Good leadership is essential for achieving change and for keeping up the momentum of first-class performance over the long run. The second reason arises from answers that I get from professionals when I ask whether leadership and management are seen as strengths or weaknesses in their firms. Usually I learn that management skills appear to be stronger, in general, than leadership attributes. The reason given is that, for many professionals, the combination of temperament and training seems to equip them to cope more easily and successfully with their technical work and management responsibilities than with their leadership challenges. Many professionals have to work quite hard, therefore, to cultivate the leadership skills that are needed if they are going to be successful team leaders.

One firm that bears out the belief that there is a high correlation between being a good employer and outstanding performance, which implies having good leadership and management at all levels, is DLA. It is a highly successful law firm. It has enjoyed exceptional fee income and profit growth during the last few years. It has won a string of awards including Law Firm of the Year and European Firm of the Year in 2002. There have been awards also for its human resources strategy. It was rated highly in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Over the last six years, DLA’s image in the legal marketplace has changed from being an organization with a ‘rottweiler culture’ and a ‘revolving door’ to that of ‘a good place to work’.

This is what DLA’s Nigel Knowles, Managing Partner of the Year in 2002, has to say about leadership and management:

An aligned and successful business which gets big and old can suffer from inertia, which does not matter too much when markets are stable but can be disastrous when markets shift. We can all think of companies that have suffered this fate. In my view it is because, although they may have been well managed, there was a failure of leadership.

Managing is all about planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing and controlling. People who just manage are not agents of change. Leadership is about having a clear direction, aligning, communicating, motivating and inspiring. Leaders are agents of change. Because the world is changing fast we need leaders at all levels to maintain a competitive advantage.

A firm’s ultimate success will be based on its capability to innovate. In a professional service firm this can happen at three levels. At the grass roots you must have a large number of incremental improvements in service and working practices. At the next level you must have a number of new initiatives and new products. At the top of the firm you must have one or two big bets, for example going international or making a major acquisition.

This clearly scotches the rumour that it is only the people at the top, whoever they are, who can make things happen. Leaders at all levels must take responsibility for innovation and change.

In our business we encourage team leaders to be good at both leading and managing. Both are important. However, we probably have to work a bit harder to get them to be really good at the leadership stuff. Leaders need to have passion. They can’t think their way into change but rather they have to see and feel the need for change. It is seeing and feeling that stirs the emotions and makes people passionate about whatever it is they want to do.

Team leaders in all firms need to be good at leading and managing. Tim Solomon, Managing Partner at the London office of advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, explains its importance in his business:

The starting point is our need to have people throughout the firm who have a well-developed entrepreneurial spirit. Our clients appreciate us much more if we are on the front foot, always looking for new opportunities and coming up with possible solutions. For this to happen we need team leaders who are really good with words, who can articulate a clear sense of direction and who can inspire their team colleagues to stretch themselves to support the brands that they are working for. The ability to provide a clear vocal message, which is in tune with people’s thinking but also enthuses them to take the extra step, is paramount. The best of our team leaders encourage inventive mavericks but discourage prima donnas and office politicians. They foster curiosity, candour, originality, perseverance, vigour and civility. They require commitment to the highest possible professional standards but they also expect people to deal with each other with kindness. There need be no conflict between these aims. Lastly, our team leaders would not be up to the job if they were not administratively competent. Strong capability in resource and capacity planning and cost control, for example, is essential.

So, in my opinion, our leaders need to have an interesting mixture of skills. They have to be able to encourage enterprising individualism whilst at the same time getting people to work well together. They also need to be able to surround these leadership attributes with skilful administrative management. We are generally able to identify people with the potentiality to become team leaders through the ways in which they work with clients and colleagues. If they are good at relationships and are able, positively, to influence others then they will probably make good team leaders. If they manage their time and assignments well then these are indicators of a broader management capability. We then develop these skills through a mixture of inhouse coaching and the use of training programmes.

For those readers who wish to develop their leadership attributes, a good starting point is to undertake some basic self-analysis. One way to do that is to use the concept of emotional intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman in his book of that name published in 1995. The term ‘emotional intelligence’ is used to describe the degree to which we are able to empathize with others and be skilful socially, be resilient in the face of obstacles, be persistent, be well motivated and control our impulses. It also, crucially, includes the extent of our self-awareness. Our emotional intelligence can be strengthened and nourished. Why not have a go at judging yourself against the qualities listed in the boxes ‘Intrapersonal qualities associated with emotional intelligence’ and ‘Interpersonal qualities associated with emotional intelligence’?