The Management Centre
Call us: +44 (0)20 7978 1516
New dates: Transformational Leadership Book Now

A plea to Leaders – if you can’t manage, please make sure someone else can

Plea to leaders

In every high performing organisation you’ll find brilliant leaders, and brilliant managers. Both these roles are needed for very different reasons.

Why do we need brilliant leaders?

Great leaders provide us with a vision we can get behind and believe in. This whole-hearted belief is necessary for us to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably get in the way of reaching that vision. We need to feel inspired to put in effort and therefore to believe that our efforts matter. We need to be challenged but also encouraged by being recognised and rewarded fairly.

And what about brilliant managers – what do we need from them?

We need someone who understands our perspective, and our personal situation. Someone who can on the one hand show us a plan for the way forward, a plan we can understand and take action on. On the other hand, we need someone who will champion and coach us. We need someone who understands our job and what it involves – and then lets us do it. We need someone to do all the legal admin stuff that can’t be ignored but also who genuinely cares for our wellbeing.

Unfortunately, time and time again we come across organisations where this just doesn’t happen. Organisations that have brilliant leaders, but where management roles mean technical competence and expertise. This function and title brings better pay, but doesn’t ensure these subject experts are also management experts. Naturally, that’s not great for the people they manage.

plants growing

Here are some examples:

Example 1: Organisation A, called CharityCo.

Charismatic leader. Well respected, insightful, impactful, empathetic, good listener. But gets tired and irritated with operational matters. Has no patience for poor performance. Does not pay attention to individual needs or aspirations. Respects that other people can do that better, and accepts they can’t be everything to everybody. So puts in place a great COO, a brilliant team of Heads with excellent people management skills, and empowers them to do the right thing. They see themselves as a team, collaborating on projects, building and nurturing each other, and see that their teams do the same. The organisation achieves brilliant things.


Example 2: Organisation B, called CoCharity.

Charismatic leader. Well respected, insightful, impactful, brings together partnerships and pushes for innovation. Doesn’t understand or care about operational matters. Empowers others to deal with things – but holds all decision-making powers. Becomes a huge bottle neck. Doesn’t listen and yet also doesn’t engage in discussions about how things will get sorted in practical terms. Just keeps demanding results. Respects academic brilliance and smart people. Promotes them. They have no people skills. They set very high targets and objectives and they know how to play internal politics. There are some outstanding achievements. But a terrible reputation makes it hard to recruit, and people don’t stay long.

Where would you rather work? And more to the point, where are you going to perform your best? Which organisation are you going to feel more connected to, more motivated to do all that you can for? Where you would feel stretched, developed but also safe and recognised?

Maybe you’re a little CharityCo and a little CoCharity. If you want to be more CharityCo it isn’t that hard: develop and nurture managers. Promote your technical genius and give them the pay they deserve. Don’t give them line management responsibilities. But also promote brilliant people-people – empower them, delegate to them, and pay them what they deserve too. Recognise your own limits and make sure someone else can excel where you can’t. Don’t be a hero. Don’t be a bottle neck. Don’t stick your head in the sand (or somewhere worse….). Think about this structurally: maybe your hierarchy could be flatter, maybe you need a matrix. Whatever you go for, you also have to be prepared to share your power, recognising that to be brilliant you also need other people to feel like they can be brilliant too.

Otherwise you might as well do everything yourself.

If you’ve found this blog interesting, contact Yvette Gyles, Director on 020 7978 1516, email or contact us online to discuss how we can help with your management and leadership challenges.

Share A plea to Leaders – if you can’t manage, please make sure someone else can

Print Friendly, PDF & Email