Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.
In the ‘good old days’ – good old days for managers, that is – there was one style of management:
Tell them what to do – expect them to do it – punish them if they don’t.
Life must have been easy then for managers: no need to motivate people (more on that in coming weeks), no back chat and alternative ideas from staff, no worry about giving offence, and high levels of compliance.
On the other hand, how efficient were workers then? Frederick Winslow Taylor wanted to apply the principles of science to management and was the first person to try to analyse an organisation, test his ideas with experiments, and document the results.
‘Taylorism’ treated people as cogs in a machine. Optimise all aspects of the process, including people, to get the best results. So Taylor introduced time and motion studies to optimise how workers did things, and piece rates as incentives for workers. He said ‘do it this way and you will get your reward’. This was scientific management.
Scientific Management largely failed. Yes, it led to the hugely successful production line and arguably to just-in-time concepts too. Six Sigma, TQM and Lean can all draw their origins from scientific management too.
But it failed as regards people. Elton Mayo was a follower of Taylor and tried to apply Taylorist principle in the Hawthorne Lighting Plant. He discovered that changing light levels changed work rates. But it didn’t matter how you changed the light levels, as long as you engaged the workers in the process. What mattered was engaging people. It still does – that’s why staff engagement is such a big deal.
Theory X or Theory Y
The tension between task focus and people focus was crystallised by Douglas McGregor in his models of management style called Theory X (task, transaction, process, incentive focused) and Theory Y (people, consensus, motivation, satisfaction focused).
These are reflected in two contrasting styles of day-to-day management: Management by Objectives (MBO) and Management by Walking About (MWA).
MBO is all about setting clear objectives to staff and supporting them in achieving them – it is formal, transactional and has been seen as highly successful. For example, Bill Packard attributed the success of Hewlett Packard in its heyday to MBO.
But strangely, Bill Packard was well known for wandering around all areas of his business, chatting with people, building relationships, sharing ideas and offering inspiration.
There is no ‘right’ style of management. We each need to find the right balance, that works for us. We also need to adapt that balance to each individual and to changing circumstances.
If you are looking for one simple model that can more than pull its weight in understanding management, then look no further. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed their Managerial Grid in the 1950s and early 1960s. Its simplicity captures vital truths about management styles and their implications.
Every manager should understand the basics of the Managerial Grid. Even if you are not familiar with it, there’s a good chance you will recognise its organising principle. And if you don’t, then read on. This is fundamental stuff.
Robert R Blake
Robert Blake was born in Massachusetts, in 1918. He received a BA in psychology and philosophy from Berea College in 1940, followed by an MA in psychology from the University of Virginia in 1941. His studies were broken by the war, where he served in the US Army. On his return, he completed his PhD in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin in 1947.
He stayed at the University of Texas as a tenured professor until 1964, also lecturing at Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities. In the early 1950s, he began his association with his student, Jane Mouton, which led to their work together at Exxon, the development of the Managerial Grid, and co-founding of Scientific Methods, Inc in 1964. The company is now called Grid International.
Robert Blake died in Austin, Texas, in 2004.
Jane S Mouton
Jane Mouton was born in Texas, in 1930. She got a BSC in Mathematical Education in 1950, and an MSc from Florida State University in 1951. She then returned to the University of Texas, completing her PhD in 1957. She remained there until 1964 in research and teaching roles.
It was at the University of Texas that she met Robert Blake. They were hired by Exxon to study management processes after Blake collaborated with Exxon employee, Herbert Shepard. The work led to their development of the Managerial Grid and, in 1961, to the founding of Scientific Methods, Inc (now Grid international).
Jane Mouton died in 1987.
The Managerial Grid
In many ways, Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid is a development of the Theory X, Theory Y work of Douglas McGregor. The two researchers were humanists, who wanted to represent the benefits of Theory Y management.
They did so by defining two primary concerns for a manager:
Concern for People
Concern for Production
(sometimes referred to as Concern for Task)
Although their work is often simplified to a familiar 2 x 2 matrix formulation, it was a little more subtle. They created two axes and divided each into nine levels, to give a 9 x 9 grid. It was the extreme corners, and the centre, of this grid that they labelled and characterised. They recognised that most managerial behaviours fall within the grid, rather than at the extremes.
The Five Styles on the Grid
The five styles they originally identified are at the corners and in the centre. They are still best known by the first labels Blake and Mouton published for them (shown in italics in our illustration). Blake did later refine those labels, as well as define two additional styles. This was after Jane Mouton died, in 1987.
Impoverished Management | Low Results/Low People
This is an ineffective management style, in which an indifferent manager largely avoids engaging with their people or the needs of the job at hand. Such managers reason (wrongly) that if you don’t do much, little can go wrong, and you won’t get blamed. The Peter Principle suggests managers rise to their level of incompetence, and here is the style we may see as a result.
This style is only suitable as a calculated decision to be hands off and delegate to a highly capable and strongly motivated team. Even then, a retreat into the very corner is not appropriate.
Produce-or-Perish Management | High Results/Low People
Authoritarian managers want to control and dominate their team – possibly for personal reasons, or an unhealthy psychological need. They don’t care about their people, they just want the results of their endeavours. Away from the extreme, this Theory X-like approach can be suitable, in a crisis.
The theory X origin of this behaviour mean managers here prefer to enforce rules, policies and procedures, and can view coercion, reprimands, threats and punishment as effective ways to motivate their team. Short term results can be impressive, but this is not a sustainable management style. Team morale falls rapidly and compromises medium and long-term performance.
Middle-of-the-Road Management | Medium Results/Medium People
This is a compromise and, like all compromises, it is characterised as much by what the manager gives up as by what they put in. A little attention to task and a bit of concern for people sounds like balance, but it also reflects a level of impoverishment – not much concern for either.
This is neither an inspiring, nor developmental approach to management and can only be effective where the team itself can meet the leadership deficits it leaves behind. A good manager could only legitimately use this approach where this one team is a low priority among other competing demands, and the manager is confident they can manage themselves to a large degree. If not, mediocrity will be the best result the manager will achieve from this strategy.
Country Club Management | High People/Low Results
Sometimes, you need to rest your team, take your foot off the accelerator, and accommodate their needs. These may be for a break, for team-building, or for development, perhaps.
However, as a long term strategy, it is indulgent, and leads to complacency and laziness among team members. There is little to drive them, yet we know pride in achievement, autonomy, and development are principle workplace motivators. Without a sufficient focus on production, the team will get little of any of these.
The work environment may be relaxed, fun, and harmonious, but it won’t be productive,. The end point will also be a lack of respect, among team members, for the manager’s leadership.
Team Management | High Production/High People
According to Blake and Mouton, the Team Management style is the most effective approach. This is routed in McGregor’s Theory Y. It is the most solid leadership style, with a balance of strong concern for both the means and the end.
A manager using this style will encourage commitment, contribution, responsibility, and personal and team development. This builds a long-term sustainable and resilient team.
Peaks and troughs in workload and team needs will mean a flexible manager with stray away from the corner from time to time, either towards accommodating or dictatorial styles. But this flexibility and their general concern for both dimensions will prevent them from an unhealthy move right into the corners.
When people are committed to both their organisation and a good leader, their personal needs and production needs overlap. This creates an environment of trust, respect, and pride in the work. The result is excellent motivation and results, where employees feel a constructive part of the company.
Two Additional Styles
After Mouton’s death, Blake continued to refine the model, adding two additional styles.
Some managers are highly opportunistic, and are prepared to exploit any situation, and manipulate their people to do so. This style does not have a fixed location on the grid. Managers adopt whichever behaviour offers the greatest personal benefit. It is the ultimate in flexibility, and is highly effective.
What matters is motivation. Some managers are highly flexible for reasons of great integrity others for purely self-serving reasons.
The loaded label represents a flip-flopping between accommodating ‘Country Club management’ and dictatorial ‘Produce-or-Perish management’. At each extreme, this managerial style is prescriptive about what the team needs and how they will supply it.
The subtlety of sound team management adapting to the team’s needs is not present. Such managers rarely welcome a team trying to exercise its own autonomy. They will feel it as an unwelcome challenge.
Abraham Maslow never set out to be a management thinker: his attention was on people in the round. It was only his desire to test out his ideas – and those of colleague Douglas McGregor – that led him to be one of the best known names among managers. His model of motivation is almost certainly the most widely known in English speaking organisations. Does it deserve to be?
Abraham Maslow was born in 1908 to Jewish emigré parents, who had come to New York to escape Tsarist pogroms in Russia. There, Maslow grew up amidst antisemitism.
He took his undergraduate degree at City University of New York and then gained his MA and PhD in psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1934. His thesis considered dominance and sexuality in Monkeys, which later led noted sexologist Alfred Kinsey to seek out his assistance in the 1940s. Maslow, however, rejected Kinsey, challenging the rigour of his research and later publishing evidence of bias in Kinsey’s sample selection (of young women for his study).
Maslow spend the late 1930s and the 1940s teaching and researching at Brooklyn College, where he published his most notable work on The Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 (A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50, pp370-396). This was later fully documented in his most important book, Motivation and Personality.
In 1951, he moved to Brandeis University, where he stayed until 1969, a year before his death in 1970
A Humanist First
The core of Maslow’s work as a psychologist was his move away from studying the psychology of people with problems, towards people who are successful. He used the term ‘positive psychology’and was almost certainly the first to do so. It is now widely used, since its establishment as a (now very vibrant) field of research by Martin Seligman.
However, the movement he was instrumental in had the name of humanistic psychology and it is one that last week’s Management Thinker, Mary Parker Follett would have embraced.
The Hierarchy of Needs
His major contribution was a model that was designed to explain human behaviour and has subsequently come to be used as a theory of workplace motivation. He built a needs theory of human behaviour by first grouping human needs into classes, and then arranging these classes into a hierarchy. He argued that the prospect of satisfying an unmet need leads to motivation to act or choose.
Often shown as a pyramid, with basal (or ‘deficiency’) needs at the bottom and higher (or ‘growth’) needs at the top, the sequence means that our first instinct is to focus on the lowest level of unmet need.
include warmth, food, sex, sleep and shelter – anything necessary to survival.
Safety and Security Needs
can now be thought of as job, wage or other economic security.
Love and Belonging Needs
are for social acceptance and the development of trusting relationships.
are firstly for power, status and prestige and then, for a self-belief that our place is merited.
was what Maslow was interested in: maximising our potential, living life to the full and contributing to our society.
In more modern needs theories of motivation, like Self Determination Theory of Ryan and Deci (popularised by Daniel Pink), belonging, esteem and self actualisation are still seen as powerful workplace motivators in the forms of relatedness (love and belonging), competence (esteem), and autonomy (actualisation).
There are two critiques that are commonly levelled at the Hierarchy of Needs – one valid, one not.
It is often argued that the hierarchy presents a rigid sequence and that we continually want more, so do not fully escape the lowest levels, whilst some artist, say, will self-actualise away in lonely poverty in a cold garrett ignoring the basement motivators. In fact, Maslow himself said that the hierarchy is neither universal, nor a rigid sequence. The price his legacy pays for fame, is that most people learn the model from a few paragraphs in a text book or fifteen minutes in a management training session – and not from Maslow’s own writing. (Up goes my hand too!)
The more valid critique is the shallow research base for the model, and the reliance Maslow placed on anecdote, interview and subjective interpretation. However, we must understand his motivation: which was to create a springboard for studying what really interested him – Self Actualisation.
In fact, he did spend time in industry, studying motivation, but it was Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y that he was testing – and he found it wanting. Much as he supported it, he found it too simplistic in the real world, where people need a dose of Theory X predictability to feel fully secure.
Above and Below the Pyramid
Interesting to me is Maslow’s argument that we cannot satisfy our needs unless we have sufficient freedoms. As a humanist, he argued strongly for basic human freedoms such as expression and speech, the ability to defend ourselves, and for a society that prioritises justice.
Above the pyramid, he argued we would find needs higher than self-actualisation in the way he described it. These may be some form of aesthetic, spiritual or transcendent needs. This is an idea that Clare Graves developed into Spiral Dynamics, although the merits of that model need careful assessment.
For may years, knowing he came from Russia, I pronounced his name Mazlov. My research for this article shows that I was wrong. The name is common among Polish and Western Ukrainian Jewish families, where the -ow ending is pronounced with the soft w sound. A research student of his from the early 1940s records on a Wikipedia discussion page that Maslow pronounced his own name as Mah-zlow.
‘Ahead of her time’ seems to be the most appropriate epiphet to apply to Mary Parker Follett. And many have done so: Peter Drucker described her as a ‘prophet of management’, while Warren Bennis has said:
‘Just about everything written today about
leadership and organizations comes from
Mary Parker Follett’s lectures and writings.’
Mary Parker Follett was born in 1868, into a wealthy Quaker family in Boston. She was an exceptional scholar and a polymath, attending university at Harvard (the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women – later Radcliffe College), during which time she also spent a year at Newnham College, at Cambridge University (in England). Although denied a PhD by Harvard, she studied widely in law, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. While at Cambridge University she prepared and delivered a paper that was to become, in 1918, her first book: ‘The New State’. It was about social evolution and group-based democratic government. It was reviewed by former US president, Theodore Roosevelt and remains in print today.
After studying, Follett spent the next thirty or so years (from 1890 to 1924) focusing on voluntary social work in Boston. She innovated, being the first person in the US to use a school as an out-of-hours community centre; a model that was widely reproduced across the country.
However, what interests us most at the Management Pocketblog is her work from 1924, when she turned her focus to industry. She wrote that it is ‘the most important field of human activity’ and that:
‘management is the most fundamental element in industry’
She became an early management consultant and was much in demand by industry leaders and academic institutions. She spent her time advising and lecturing, up until her death, at a relatively young age, in December 1933.
Sadly, her work is not widely known of in the western world, despite notable figures like Drucker, Bennis and Sir Peter Parker praising her to the rafters. This is despite the fact that she anticipated a wide range of issues and thinking that is still today presented as modern and aspirational for our large organisations.
Follett’s Visionary Thinking
Let’s count the ways that Follett was ahead of her time in the field of management. I get to eight.
1. Humanistic Approach to Organisations
Growing up in the time of FW Taylor, and ahead of the work of Elton Mayo, Follett rejected the functional approach to industry in favour of her emphasis on what we now call humanistic principle. She was a progressive, rational humanist in the management field as well as in the political and social arenas, and puts me very much in mind of George Eastman, whom I also described as a visionary. She very much anticipated the work of Douglas McGregor.
Follett rejected the idea that managers and staff have fundamentally different roles and capabilities. Instead, she saw that an organisation’s success would come from recognising the part that each has to play in delivering its services or creating its products. She advocated giving power to where it matters.
3. Joined up Business (… and hence, Re-engineering and Lean?)
This created a need for a joined up organisation, where activities, departments, functions and people are properly co-ordinated – both across the organisation and from the bottom to the top (and vice versa). She referred to the relationships between staff and managers and among functions as ‘reciprocal relating’. A leader’s role is therefore to see the whole organisation and the ‘relation between all the different factors in a situation’. Is it too much of a stretch to see this as anticipating the mission of re-engineering and lean management to close gaps in process flow? I don’t think so.
4. Group Dynamics and Team Working – Participative Leadership
The equal balance of power between management and employees leads to the need for team co-operation and that, she suggested, develops a true sense of responsibility in workers. To me, it also demands a model of leadership that Robert Greenleaf was to call ‘Servant Leadership’. Follett did not herself go as far, but identified ‘Participative Leadership’ as the style that involves a whole team in creating products and delivering services.
5. Personal Responsibility
Tying together empowerment, co-ordination and group working is the sense of responsibility they inculcate in workers. Follett again anticipated McGregor’s Theory Y, by arguing that it is this which most develops people.
If we are to delegate greater responsibility to our people, we must do so well. Follett was an early advocate of management training, believing when many did not that the leadership aspects can be taught.
7. Transformational Leadership
In a paper called ‘The social construction of leadership: From theory to praxis’, Edith Rusch notes the unacknowledged similarities between James McGregor Burns’ articulation of ‘Transformational Leadership’and Follett’s writings. She presents a compelling argument that Follett not only anticipated the ideas of transformational leadership, but that she was the first to put them forward and even used the term.
8. Win-Win Negotiation and Conflict Management
One particular interest of Follett’s was conflict. She suggested three approaches of domination, compromise and integration, that Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann would later refer to as competing, compromising, and collaborating. Her thinking on the benefits and mechanisms of creating integrated ‘win-win’ resolutions is rich and sophisticated. In her suggestion that we uncover the real conflict and get to each party’s deeper aims, and then seek to satisfy those, she anticipated a lot of the thinking in best-selling negotiation book, ‘Getting to Yes’.
My one Favourite concept…
from all of Follett’s writing is this: the idea of ‘circular response’. This is that our behaviour helps to create the situation to which we respond. It is the idea of a feedback loop of self reinforcing interpretations and behaviour. I don’t doubt that the essence of this very modern sounding idea goes back to the ancients and classical writings of many cultures. But her articulation of it (and of the compelling phrase ‘circular response’) is so clear, that it has got me thinking.
to Mary Parker Follett. Before I started researching this blog, I knew nothing of her (unlike almost all other management thinker subjects). I had hoped that, being less known, there would be little to read and writing this would be quick. Far from it. But I have gained a lot from learning about Follett, and I hope you will too.
When I was a physics postgrad, all of the best electronic equipment in our lab was made by one company; the oscilloscope, signal generator, analog-digital converter and the plotter. They were made by Hewlett Packard.. My professor had a deep admiration for the quality of their engineering. Every since, I have had an almost blind faith in the quality of HP printers. Hewlett Packard was founded by two college friends, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. It was Packard who ran the company for many years, and his management style is the epitome of Theory Y.
David Packard was born in 1912 and grew up in Colorado. He attended Stanford University, graduating in electrical engineering in 1934. There, he met two people who were to dominate his life: his wife to be, Lucile, and Bill Hewlett.
After a spell at General Electric and further study at MIT, Packard and Hewlett formed a partnership in 1938, starting the Hewlett Packard business with just $538 of capital, in a garage in Palo Alto, in what is now known as Silicon Valley. HP, as it is known, quickly became a successful business, becoming one of the world’s most admired companies. This is, in large part, due to the exemplary management style of its founders and of Dave Packard in particular.
In 1969, Packard temporarily left the company to take up a political post (Deputy Secretary of Defense) in the Nixon administration. There, he became involved in resource management, setting up the Defense Systems Management College and in amending the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act to extend presidential powers to involve military personnel in certain civilian matters.
He returned to the company in 1972 and remained Chairman, and then Chairman Emeritus, until his death in 1996. He left around 4$ billion to the charitable foundation that he and his wife founded, and which is now administered by his son and three daughters.
Packard’s Contributions to Management
Not only was Dave Packard a model of humanistic management, but he is closely associated with his own particular style of management…
Management by Wandering About (MBWA)
Management by Wandering (or Walking) About is exactly what it sounds like. He and Hewlett would wander about the business, engaging staff in conversation, listening to them, showing respect, and empowering them to do their best work. They valued both the informality and the egalitarianism (in a time when the senior management of most US corporations ate apart, in a management dining room). This seemed to come naturally to them both and is not, perhaps, too surprising, as they were both, like many of their staff, skilled and enthusiastic electronics engineers. You can get a good sense of the level of respect that Packard had for his people from 11 rules that Dave Packard presented at HP’s second annual management conference, in 1958 – a year after he wrote the first version of The HP Way. We cold all do a lot worse than to try and live by these rules, which you can see on the HP website.
Another important principle that HP lived by was the need for organisational agility. They maintained this by breaking the company up into smaller divisions whenever any of them grew too large (1,500 people or so). By keeping a business made of small units, each one could stay focused and its leaders could fully understand what was going on and, crucially for a cautious business leader like Packard, stay aware of the risks it was incurring.
Innovation and Compassion
In 1972, despite early scepticism, HP introduced its first pocket calculator, which led to another round of significant growth and its subsequent investment in the computing business. I still use my HP12C financial calculator, which is so admired that there are numerous apps cloning its looks and functions on my iPhone.
But Packard’s innovative sense could also be applied compassionately. In 1970, the US economy fell into recession and many of HP’s competitors made massive lay-offs. HP did not. Instead, it agreed with all workers and management to cut wages by 10% in return for them working only 9 days out of ten. This meant that no-one lost their job and, to the company’s advantage, it also meant that there were no costs of redundancy and , when the economy recovered, they could get back to full productivity without the costs, delays and pain of re-hiring.
The final lesson to learn from Packard is his over-riding commitment to the quality of the firm’s products. This was what had so enchanted my professor and won his loyalty. In one memo to HP staff (1961), Packard wrote:
‘Our main task is to design, develop and manufacture the finest [electronic equipment] for the advancement of science and the welfare of humanity.’
That is an ideal worthy of our respect, as well as the loyalty of one eminent physics professor.
We don’t yet have a whole alphabet of management theories, but we are on our way. It all started with Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Then, towards the end of his life, McGregor added a Theory Z, which was revived some years later by William Ouchi, describing the adoption of Japanese ideas of management in the United States.
Here are simple caricatures of the three theories.
Theory X assumes …
‘I hate my work, I only do it for the money, i don’t want to think for myself, indeed, I’d rather just do as little as I can.’
So my boss will favour carrot and stick incentives, presuming I need to be compelled to do the job I’m paid for.
Theory Y assumes …
‘I like to work, it’s part of my life, i want to do well, and I will work hard if given the responsibility and recognition I deserve.’
So my boss will give me the responsibility I earn and reward me with the recognition I deserve.
Theory Z assumes …
‘I want a long term career, I want to believe in what I do, I need to be led with a clear sense of purpose.’
So my boss will work hard to convince me of the benefits of my endeavours and enrol me as a committed employee.
Ever since McGregor
Having got to the end of the alphabet, new theories have turned backwards. There is a Theory W – in fact several versions. There are also a Theory U and Theory T (there is a rather nice paper on these ideas around Utopian and Tragic overlays to McGregor’s original work here.)
The point is that, ever since McGregor, once strong assumption has prevailed. In our modern world, Theory X is dead. Nobody wants to be managed by being told what to do.
This blog is not about Politics
I had the whole story clear in my mind, and then, as I started writing, I came to realise that some might recognise Theory X in present UK Government attitudes to welfare. Let’s put that debate to one side.
This blog is about Management
Is there a role for Theory X in the modern workplace? Of the hundreds of people I have discussed this with in seminars and training sessions, I have encountered nobodywho professes to prefer Theory X management. But my sample is biased. I train leaders and managers, and mostly in white collar industries and services.
So how do people – perhaps literally ‘at the coal-face’ prefer to be managed? The truthful answer is ’I don’t know.’ But what I do know is that all leadership theory is predicated on the simple assertion that leaders need followers.
The concept of ‘Situational Leadership’ presupposes that different people like to be led in different ways – at different times. So how plausible is it that nobody prefers to be told what to do sometimes, and that we can never need a little bit of a push or pull to get us to really perform.
Theory X and Time Management
Time management is a favourite topic of mine. I am fascinated by the different ways we can get things done. When you have an important but un-pleasant and complex task, how do you ‘make yourself’ do it? For many of us, the answer draws upon classic time management guidance:
set a deadline
promise yourself rewards
break the task into simple chunks
discipline yourself to do one at time
Theory X, anyone?
So here’s the deal
Theory X is as useful a model of motivation as all of the others. The secret is to apply it respectfully, and only when it suits the situation.
Modern managers have it hard. In ‘the good old days’ managers could expect to simply dictate targets, set tasks and instruct their staff. What a wonderful world that must have been for managers!
Leadership and Politics
Jonathan Powell has recently added the fourth corner of pyramid of books about Tony Blair’s administration, following those of Blair himself, Mandelson and Campbell. It received less coverage than the others but what struck me was that he has used Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ as his framework. So that’s the one I’ll be hoping for come the overflowing half-price offers at Christmas. I’ve been fascinated by the Florentine since seeing him in a walk-on part in Marlowe’s ‘The Jew of Malta’ at the RSC. (John Carlisle played him and Alun Armstrong the Jew, Barabus. What a fabulous year that was at the RSC!)
It sent me scurrying to my well-thumbed Penguin edition which, even when I bought it over ten years ago was three times as expensive at a charity shop than the cover price; which appears to make scrappy paperbacks a good investment. (Scrappy now: not when it was published, I have to add, as Pearson are also publishing two of my books later this year!)
Three passages caught my attention. Firstly, it seems that written leadership theory goes back not to Machiavelli at all, as I would have said yesterday, but to the Bible and Moses, which Signor M cites in discussing the role of fortune.
Second – and make of it what your political leanings will – Machiavelli takes sides on the current economic debate in the UK, saying that the Prince should inflict all injuries in one go, and confer benefits steadily. So, at last we see where George Osborne’s playbook comes from.
Okay Mike, stop digressing
Third, and most relevant, Machiavelli draws clear distinctions between leaders and managers that resonate through the modern leadership thinkers who influence business training and management schools today.
I don’t have the space to recount my favourite leadership models, but suffice to say; most of them emphasise that the role of a leader is not to manage: it is to lead.
Leaders Lead: Managers Manage
A smart leader lets their managers get on with the day-to-day running of the business, and that creates an easy division which is often represented in tables like this:
I am sure many trainers reading this blog have facilitated sessions that have ended up with very similar flip charts! This comparison between leaders and managers was first made by Warren Bennis, in response to an HBR article by Abraham Zaleznik in 1977.
So why do Managers have it so hard?
If a smart leader lets their managers manage, then they only have one job to do: leadership. But modern managers are constantly – and rightly – being reminded that our society demands leadership at every level.
Blame Douglas McGregor if you will. His same Theory Y encouraged both managers to stop their easy command and control behaviours (of which Machiavelli would heartily have approved) and encouraged leadership thinkers like Bert Nanus and Warren Bennis to articulate a truly modern theory of leadership.
Leadership at every level and bringing the best out of every employee goes beyond indulging uppity managers in calling themselves leaders; it demands that all managers are leaders.
So here’s the deal
So there we have it: Leaders lead but managers manage and lead. No wonder so many people would rather be a leader than a manager – it’s any easier job!