Leading the push for better management

SUGGESTIONS that Australian organisations are over-managed and under-led mask the importance of both attributes in well-run organisations.

Attempts to define the difference between leadership and management usually address the time focus of the individual.

Leaders are said to look to tomorrow whereas managers work on today’s tasks.

Professor Roger Collins of the Australian Institute of Management, for example, suggest managers honour stability and control through systems and procedures. Leaders thrive on change, exercise control through worthy and inspiring visions of what might be, and understand that empowering people can lead to sustained relevance and vitality.

Unfortunately, such definitions have become value laden, with executives seeing leadership as being good, exciting or interesting and management as boring, introspective and therefore less worthy.

Although the authors of the definitions did not necessarily intend for these value judgements to be made, many people are striving for superior leadership and are ignoring the importance of the traditional managerial roles.

Effective management is an attribute that is essential to organisational success. Without skilled staff who are able to implement and maintain strategies on a day-to-day basis, organisations begin to develop cracks and take in water. Many organisations with great potential and visionary leaders have failed through the neglect of detail.

The solution of course is a combination of both attributes – not necessarily someone who is high on both leadership and management, but someone with the skill and flexibility to apply the appropriate attribute to various situations, at the right time. Organisations and departments go through different phases that require differing levels of leadership and management. At various times in the day, week, or year, strong leadership is required to inspire and set the course for future action. But equally, effective management is also required to take the lead role when the job needs to be done and the product or service delivered to the customer.

Few would argue the relevance of leadership to organisations. Staff at all levels in organisations need to have a clear vision of the future and the ability to articulate that vision to both their colleagues and customers. However, let’s not make the mistake of ignoring the very real and important role that management must take to ensure the long-term success of our organisations.

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