Masterclass - Leadership - Lead or manage? You decide

20th March 2009 at 00:00
Whether you're approaching a job from a leadership or management perspective will affect your decisions and the way you follow then through

Are you a leader or a manager? Leaders have vision, managers get results. Often, leadership and management are confused, the terms being used interchangeably. As a middle or senior staff member, you will be expected to combine the roles of leader and manager effectively. To do this, you have to be clear about the distinction.

Leaders tend to fall into one of five main categories: traditional; situational; appointed; functional or charismatic.

Traditional leaders are elevated to leadership through a right of birth (for example, in certain tribes). Situational leaders happen to be in the right place at the right time. Appointed leaders account for most of the leadership roles in the workplace, where authority is conferred by whoever appointed them. Functional leaders operate without being appointed and secure a large degree of influence over their peers. Finally, there are the charismatic leaders - those who possess that indefinable "something" - whose personality wins through, even though they may not be the best in their field.

As a leader, you may display a style that runs from authoritarian, where decisions are made and announced with no debate, to democratic, where all your staff have an equal opportunity to influence the eventual decision. Leaders should communicate their vision for the school or area they lead.

As a manager, your style may also be predominantly one of the following types: passive political; solicitous; administrative; assertive; motivational or problem-solving.

The successful manager will be able to utilise more than one style, according to the situation they encounter. Managers are driven by two concerns: results and relationships. Those who display a high degree of concern for relationships may put more emphasis on wanting to be liked, ignoring poor performance and often managing by compromise. Those with a high level of concern for results tend to be assertive and require things done "their way", telling rather than listening, with little concern for people's feelings.

"Passive political" managers lie between those two extremes. They tend to be resistant to change, prone to laziness and quick to criticise. Administrative managers, meanwhile, go by the book and will be conscientious rather than creative. Those managers who have a high degree of concern for results and relationships are the motivational, problem-solving managers, who agree targets and goals but expect achievement, face conflict calmly, help their staff to find solutions and make decisions as and when required. In many cases, this is the style that good managers seek to display and use.

As a head of department or co-ordinator, you will be required to display a range of leadership and management styles. The key is knowing what style to apply and when to apply it, and knowing when to lead and when to manage.

It is useful to remember that any decision that affects the working conditions of your colleagues requires you to act in a way that places a high degree of concern for relationships. Working conditions can simply mean a clean, tidy, well-kept environment, to monitoring how much observation a teacher is subjected to and how much paperwork they have to deal with. The former can be dealt with quite easily; the latter may need you to look at what procedures you have in place and whether or not they are all essential.

Being autocratic or authoritarian in these circumstances only serves to alienate people. A high degree of concern results in better working relationships, greater motivation and improved results

James Williams is a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex. Next week: Giving a presentation.


- Identify issues and problems and decide if the solution requires leadership or management.

- Choose an appropriate style according to the impact that the decision will have and its effect on staff.

- In some cases, autocratic decision-making is fine - for example, choosing the colour of exercise books doesn't need a committee.

- Where decisions have an impact on staff working conditions, a more democratic decision-making process is needed.

- Communicate your vision for your area of responsibility clearly and ensure it fits in with any wider vision.

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