LEADERSHIP: Manager vs Leader


What makes a good leader and what makes a good manager and what is the difference? Well you could also simplify the argument and say its the difference between the head and the heart. Why do I use this analogy? Well, what ever we do in life, whether your a high flyer or a production line worker we are first and foremost human beings with all the complexities that that entails. Probably the most complex machine on the planet today. There are the physical workings of a human being, an amazing array of processes that have yet to be fully understood. Then there is the physiological workings of a human being, equally challenging to understand. The two are inseparable and to try and do so would be like trying to jump out of your own skin. What makes us US? Is it the head or the heart or soul if you really want to get deep about it. In reality it is a combination of both.

How many times have you wanted to do something yet have been held back by that voice in your head telling you that perhaps that would not be a good idea? Conversely Bravery is defined by the fact that despite knowing the odds are against you and having rationally weighed up all the outcomes, your heart overrules the head and you continue on anyway. And when do you decide it is better to listen to your head rather than your heart or indeed vice versa. That last paragraph alone could take up years of research and contemplation!

And so it follows then that human beings lead human beings. What sets out those that lead from those that follow?

The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences:

– The manager administers; the leader innovates.

– The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

– The manager maintains; the leader develops.

– The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

– The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

– The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

– The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

– The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

– The manager imitates; the leader originates.

– The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

– The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

– The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

That last line is a very interesting thing indeed. Doing things right isn’t always the right thing to do. Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing things right. An ethical example for you. As a traffic officer I stop a driver because their using their mobile phone. One of our fatal four offences. Committed to prosecute those who transgress. But hang on, the driver is a doctor who is a leading light in the care of childhood cancers. Their terms of employment mean that if they attract points on their license they can no longer work for their employer. A simplistic scenario no doubt but I would have no hesitation in sending that driver away with a flea in their ear. I would remind them that their stupidity had risked their contribution to a worthy cause. Conversely, I would be stupid to take a course of action that would prevent them from doing so. I did the right thing BUT but I didn’t do it right. Hmmmm, lots to think about on both sides of that simple example.

So, as I have always done in this latest series of blogs I consider the position of leadership from the position of a coal face worker. I don’t know why I keep coming back to that description. Maybe the phrase exaggerates the gulf between the top and the bottom. A concept I equally hate, because we think of leaders as those that are above us in rank structure or pay scale. Yet as police Officers we are all leaders and we are all coal face workers. A senior PC in service on the scale, a tutor Con or just a humble foot soldier who doubles up with a probationer on their first time out on independent patrol. We hope to inspire our colleagues yet holding the same rank for some will look up to us for guidance. If we do not provide that guidance that we fail in our duty. For duty is not only to the public we serve but also to the very human beings we work with. An unique profession where there is only us to look after ourselves.

It is right therefore to expect our leaders to inspire us, look after us and drive us. If they do not the ultimate outcome will not only be our downfall but theirs.

So as a coal face worker what inspires me to follow? Maybe some of the things I mention will resonate with you also. Perhaps the first thing is “never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.” Nothing does more for moral than to see your supervisor whether that be your sector sergeant or the Divisional Commander out on Patrol with the troops. I’m not talking about a token gesture either. It has to be sustained and genuinely felt. I remember my old Divisional Commander now retired. Not only was he a gentleman, he regularly took himself out, unannounced, on his own at busy times of the night in a very busy seaside resort. I was at that time the CBM for the area and he would regularly collar me in town and foot patrol with me. We would regularly chew the fat about various things as we walked around but I never forgot he was the boss but equally he would be more than willing to get “involved” and assisted me in several incidents. I genuinely miss him.

They say little things make all the difference. Just as in a major investigation it is the minutia that gets the result. Coal face workers notice the little things and often that’s all they want changing. Its important that leaders take note of the little things. I should imagine it is easy to get lost in the wider issues at hand as a leaders area of responsibility can involve the supervision of up to 1000 officers. As Rudyard Kipling said ” If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.”

It is an interesting fact that in the police career structure there are seven ranks that each carry there own title. Only two share the same title. Police Constable and Chief Constable. Maybe Mr Peel was a lot more savvy than we give him credit for.


2 thoughts on “LEADERSHIP: Manager vs Leader

Add yours

  1. Excellent blog – well done. It will be interesting to see what effect “direct entry” has had on
    these issues in a few years time.

    1. Thanks Roger. A very good point you raise and one that I have not considered. Direct entry could be a breath of fresh air or a nightmare waiting to happen. Thank you very much for taking the time to read. Its much appreciated.

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