Leadership and management are ‘completely distinct’: Expert

by L&D20 Sep 2016
The role of the leader in the workplace is becoming increasingly complex, according to Dr Marcus Bowles, Director of Institute for Working Futures and DeakinDigital Strategic Consultant.

Bowles told L&D Professional that leaders today have to do more than “look over the horizon and understand what the organisation is trying to achieve”. In particular, they need critical thinking and problem solving skills, and abilities that are not just technical.

“Leadership and management are completely distinct when we are developing capabilities in modern organisations these days,” said Bowles.

“You might have someone who is a good manager and a good leader. However, you might have someone who is a highly effective leader, but they can’t manage squat.

“They may be transformational in driving change, but they certainly would not be the person you would put in charge of a project.”

Bowles emphasised that it’s important to be really selective in terms of the people and the types of skills you are developing because effective leaders may not necessarily be your managers.

“They might be the person who actually understands in a context what you are trying to achieve and they may not be the supervisors,” he said.

“They might be somebody who is a technical expert and a leading authority on innovation.”

Bowles added that leaders have to be able to create a vision and translate that vision in a meaningful way so they can engage the workforce and have them motivated to achieve that purpose.

“Effective leaders have to navigate through change and make sure they are innovative. They have to be ahead of the curve in terms of looking for solutions while keeping really close proximity to the customers to ensure their experiences are improving all the time,” he said.

“You are talking about a much higher level of engagement than the top-down leadership that’s about inspiring everyone. That doesn’t work anymore.”

In particular, the lower level frontline workplace leaders have got to be far more engaged and collaborative with the workforce then just using authority to direct them, he added.

Dr Marcus Bowles is the designer of the DeakinDigital Leadership Credentials; a pioneering capability framework that assists organisations to identify and develop future leaders within existing leadership programs. He recently spoke at the ‘Leadership in an age of disruption’ event in Melbourne hosted by DeakinDigital and DeakinPrime.