Don’t mistake management for leadership

Posted on 31 Jul 2013 by The Manufacturer

Unravelling the intertwined disciplines of management and leadership, Gary Wyles of Festo Training and Consulting says technical skills deficits having a knock-on effect on the development of staff at the middle and top of organisations.

Gary Wyles, MD, Festo Training and Consulting

It is easy to get caught up in terminology trying to differentiate between management and leadership. They are often used interchangeably without recognition of the real difference – and there is a difference.

Management is putting into place policies and procedures. It’s about efficiently executing decisions and ensuring that you have the people and the processes in place and it is about focusing on today and the near future. It’s highly important for organisations to have these skills in place, but they’re not enough to drive an organisation through good times, or bad. They need to be supplemented by leadership.

Leadership is about striving to achieve the company’s vision, making strategic choices that shape the future of the organisation, motivating and inspiring people to achieve. Leadership is having a vision for the future and having the strategic and people skills to bring it into reality.

Unfortunately, there is much improvement to be found in leadership and management within manufacturing.

“When there is a shortage of production staff and deadlines are looming, management is having to roll its sleeves up and muck in…clearly this will take management away from their strategic priorities and is unsustainable over the longer-term.”

Some recent research carried out with Festo Training and Consulting found that 38% of manufacturing companies considered lack of management skills to be of great concern for their organisations. Sixty two per cent felt that talent development and training were of high concern to their business and more than half of respondents felt that employee engagement, morale and motivation were of concern to their business.

By addressing the need for skills and training, manufacturers can go a long way to redressing low morale and motivation, particularly in a climate where additional remuneration may not be much of an option.

Lack of management skills isn’t the only problem.  Manufacturing is lacking technical expertise and skilled shop floor workers too and this has had a knock-on effect to middle management.

When there is a shortage of production staff and deadlines are looming, management is having to roll its sleeves up and muck in.

Just 32% of leaders felt their leadership capabilities were adequate.

Source: Manufacturing – A People Business. Festo 2011

The recent survey shows that this is fairly widespread across manufacturing and clearly this will take management away from their strategic priorities and is unsustainable over the longer-term.

There is real pressure and strain on the middle, the key management level, as well as at a technical level, at a time when the requirement for strong leadership within management is high.

In the recent survey, the biggest potential for improvement cited was in senior management and leadership, after improvements to the shop floor.  Getting the balance of skills and training right for leadership and management could be a crucial factor in an organisation’s capacity for future growth.

The role of leaders in today’s climate is to make choices – choices about the rate of growth, choices about investment in people, choices about how to recruit and retain people. Our managers have to recognise that they can’t do everything, and they don’t have the resources – time, financial and people-wise – to try to accomplish everything. This means they need to make strategic choices.

Additional research from Festo** shows that 63% of organisations recognised a need to develop strategic skills among their leaders, and only 32% felt that their own leadership capabilities were adequate.

Just as there is a need to transfer technical knowledge from experienced engineers to those new in the role, there is the need to transfer knowledge of leadership to managers.

This is about supporting managers to move from a technical role into management capability and then it’s about helping them differentiate between solving the problems of today and looking to solve the problems of tomorrow.

To plan strategically leaders and managers need to:

  • Take time out of the business to strategise, and delegate effectively in order to do so
  • Identify key business indicators that will direct the most appropriate plan to take
  • Ensure there are the people, teams and processes in place to drive change through the organisation
  • Engage and communicate with employees so that they understand the vision and direction of the company and how they can contribute
  • Update employees regularly on the state of play in the business
  • Recognise areas of pain within an organisation and address accordingly
  • Coach and mentor a pipeline of future managers and leaders to help drive through organisational change

There are many ways to develop management and leadership skills. One of the most effective ways, but it will require a culture change, is to instil a coaching culture within the organisation.

Further reading:

If you’re interested in the nuances of management and leadership you might find the following feature from the BBC worth a read: Are there too many managers?

This has to be led from the top and absolutely by example and it doesn’t happen overnight.  It has taken Festo years but has led to what I genuinely feel to be outstanding performance. Not to say that we aren’t facing the same skills shortages and difficulties as so many manufacturing and engineering companies – we are – but we know that when we do successfully employ someone, they refer to Festo’s training and development approach as a key attractor to working with us.

Whether skill development is through investment in training, coaching, leadership development – or whether it is giving managers the space and skills to think strategically – something needs to shift. Otherwise it is likely that we just continue to work as hard as always while never moving forward. And that’s just a frustrating situation, indicative of neither of good management or leadership.

* People and Productivity Survey (2013).  Findlay Media/Festo Training and Consulting

** Manufacturing – A People Business:  Research report on the current state of skills in manufacturing and engineering (2011).  Festo Training and Consulting