TIP of the Week – Management & Leadership – Do you strike the right balance?


So, we have Managing Directors who are actually leaders of their respective organisations and we have Team Leaders who predominantly manage the front line processes. It’s no wonder we sometimes struggle to understand what the terms management and leadership really mean, let alone apply them effectively. It’s even worse if you are one of those dreaded ‘Middle Managers’ so often criticised for not providing enough leadership, but in this age of flat organisation structures get continually drawn into the day to day micro management of the business.

You just can’t win it seems!

Clearly you have to switch between the two approaches. The question is how can you strike the right balance between the demands of both Managing and Leading and how do you know how much of each you should be doing?

The starting point is to be clear about the difference between managing and leading. The following is taken from our leadership day and comes courtesy of Warren Bennis. As you read the two lists, start to take a view about how much of each list you actually do each month, and come up with your percentage of  management and your percentage of leadership…..

The typical ‘Middle Manger’ often quotes around 80% of their time being spent on Management and 20% on Leadership. The evidence they quote is the amount of time they  spend getting the work out of the door, sorting out issues and problems for most of their working day. Given these circumstances the understandable reaction to being criticised for not doing enough leadership is:    “If I spent time on leadership the real work wouldn’t get done, our customers would be let down and I would be criticised for the business not performing”

Do you recognise this situation?

Unfortunately the consequence of not doing enough leadership is potentially fatal for the organisation in the long term. Imagine if your CEO and Directors were dealing entirely with today’s operational issues, what would happen? Clearly there would be little or no long term strategic thinking. Therefore when the business dynamics change and they will: for example different market requirements, competitors ability, political changes and so on, you will probably not be ready…. Similarly if your front line supervisors (Team Leaders) spend too much time on pure leadership activities the work process and output is likely to be put at risk.

My guide is to aim for a 90/10 balance in both of these levels, but in opposite directions. Please allow me to explain….

CEO’s and Directors should be a minimum of 90% leadership and Supervisors a maximum of 10% leadership.

CEO’s and Directors should be concentrating on innovation, improvements people and organisation development and continually looking out at the horizon in terms of the market place. They need to know and understand the healthy operation of the business, but should only be involved in the daily issues in times of crisis or important corporate decision making i.e. 90% Leadership &  10% Management

Supervisors & Team Leaders should be concentrating for the majority of their time on the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes and people that deliver the company’s product or service to the highest standard. This will occasionally require them to develop individual and team skills and to offer improvement ideas i.e. 10% Leadership &  90% Management.

The tough group is the Middle Managers who should aim for a minimum of 75 % Leadership and a maximum of 25% Management. The reason for these numbers is that this group above all others own the responsibility for making changes happen in the organisation. Everything goes through this level of management, therefore if they become the leadership ‘bottleneck’ long term sustainable business success is highly unlikely.

How can you strike a better balance?

If you are in this group of ‘Middle Managers’ and you want to change your management and leadership balance as recommended, here are some great tactics to change the dynamic.

Develop your people so they can take on more responsibility

Improve your delegation skills to take some work off your back

Brush up your decision making skills to focus on important issues

Prioritise more assertively against leadership needs

Instigate problem solving to remove the daily issues

Put preventative measures in place to stop problems re-occurring

Drive improvement activities in the business

The irony is that the more leadership you do, the easier the management of the business becomes and that’s something everyone wants! Your life becomes easier, the business performs better and your leadership reputation gets a boost a the same time. So, rather than think you don’t have time to do leadership stuff, the reverse is true. Experience has shown that the more leadership you do the more effective you and the business becomes.

At TIPS we cover all of the above and more on our excellent leadership programmes, come and talk to us.

It may be just what you need to tip the balance between success and failure for you and your organisation…