Leaders or bullies, the people you follow, what’s the difference?

Do you watch Room 101 on television when they select their least favourite items from a group of celebrities? If I were on the programme I would include noisy, talentless, bullies who claim to be leaders. A problem with leadership is that often the difference between a good leader and these sort of people is not always clear. It’s a matter of circumstances and opinion. Who is to say? And it takes a strong personality to make bold decisions to tackle some problems. Churchill, Thatcher or Napoleon were right for their time, but take them out of context and less appealing aspects of their characters might be more apparent. So, do you turn a blind eye to the colourful excesses of strong egos? I have always worked with entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders, and some of them are great fun. A good number very challenging. And I am sure you can think of similar characters. Suppliers too, especially who live on their wits. Perhaps a change-management consultant or website or SEO expert, their very modus operandi is to convince you, that in some specific way you are weak, or your business is failing. You’re no good at “it”. But they are. So, shut up and listen. And give them money. Don’t get me wrong, they could be right. Or is it just their force of personality looking for fooling weak followers? Leaders or bullies, the people you follow, what’s the difference? Leadership is doing the right thing. The leader is the visionary, with ideas, energy and inspiration to make the organisation work. I’m going to focus on leadership, what is it, how it differs from management, and how it varies in small and larger organisations.

Manager and Leaders

Leaders or bullies, the people you follow, what’s the difference? Is it just a title? A populist thing? Peter Drucker has the best answer, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” The former, management, focuses on effectiveness, whilst leadership overlays this with, innovation, vision, embracing opportunities, winning hearts and minds and possessing a moral compass – this is not a complete inventory of leadership qualities! In an age where all evidence suggests people, employees and customers, buy and are motivated by more than money, this is critical. In an Industry Week article, “The Most Important Leadership Quality” it quotes an IBM report which finds an one vital new leadership characteristic which is to “serve as mentors and teachers for their employees and eventual successors”. On a wider more strategic level Warren Bennis, one of the pioneers of contemporary leadership studies, was fond of saying, “The manager administers; the leader innovates.” Andy Boynton give a nice summary of essential leadership qualities in his Forbes article, Nine Things That Separate The Leaders From The Managers. He writes, ” Without leadership, there’s no agenda for change and improvement. There’s no vision.”

Popular leaders – does it help or hinder?

Does this mean leaders have got to be popular? Tony Robins criticizes many leaders for “doing what’s popular not what’s right” in this interview.  They need to be visionary, in his view, storytellers, inspiring employees based upon what clients and customers tell them not focusing on the product. So, no, leaders do not have to be popular but emotionally intelligent, yes. But is there any hard evidence of this or is it anecdotal? An example of this in practice was data collected from 134 midlevel manager in a large company in the energy sector. Leadership, effectiveness, emotional intelligence and personality had a measurable effect. In a smaller company it’s about performance or as Dr R Ted Prince puts it in his article Style and Substance – What to look for in new leaders, “Style without substance is a common problem among first-time leaders. No-one teaches you how to be a CEO.” He stresses employees quickly fail to trust the CEO, Investors too. Listening is the most powerful tool the CEO can apply. A leader has to ultimately get results. It earns employees cash, bonuses, and pensions. And delivers shareholders their returns on investment. But of course ideally an emotionally intelligent, focused leaders is the full package.

The Confident Leader

The body language and demeanour, tone of voice combined with other key aspects of emotional intelligence will push a leader through, such attributes as:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

However much leadership training is given to less confident people, in smaller companies ambition is apparent. In larger organisations the wider panoply of emotional intelligence is essential for success. There is also a difference between the “driving” CEO and the COO role, the latter perhaps more the completer finisher – well described by Belbin.

Heroes or Egos?

There is a fashion in recent years to “dis” larger companies and “play-up” every small company as a paradigm of perfection. Nothing is perfect, per se. The current move of large  and small companies to work together is positive. It’s a marriage of resources and agility. Having been a plc director and still working with larger charities and larger organisations in a voluntary capacity and as clients, I see the challenges and weaknesses that come with size. But nothing is perfect. There are often overlooked benefits of size such as:

  • Top talent – you can buy the best
  • Training capabilities
  • Great infrastructure
  • Systems and processes – for example delivering GDPR and ISO
  • Cybersecurity – the resource to do this properly
  • Pension provision

….just a few benefits

Weaknesses have been often times listed such as politics, bureaucracy, lack of agility and innovation.

Does Size Matter?

Here’s come typical recruitment website advice to younger people on working for larger or smaller employers. What I think is often less well described is the challenge of working with the likely leader types in small and larger organisations. A good outfit is a good place to work, “period” – to use the vernacular. A large company that falls down on the people side, I’d suggest frustrates because of size, lack of innovation, lack of proximity to risk, and consequent potential lack of dynamism from management. But some, smaller companies can suffer from “napoleons” and the “not invented here” syndrome, limiting the advancement and opportunity for employees. Large, small or medium can all be successful with the right leadership and great people. Leaders or bullies, the people you follow, what’s the difference? Leadership is doing the right thing. The leaders is the visionary, with ideas, energy and inspiration to make the organisation work.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Posted in Blog.