Leaders or managers? Although both figures are essential in a company, they are two completely different concepts, which often leads to confusion. In general, managers are oriented towards results, to achieving pre-set goals and objectives as quickly as possible. Leadership, on the other hand, entails much more than the simple management of a company: a leader must have a long-term vision, consider “the numbers”, but also analyse how to reach the target. Above all, a leader must motivate the team to commit itself to the company’s projects and strategic decisions.
In an increasingly globalised and competitive environment, EADA professor Dr Rubén Llop (Strategy, Leadership and People Department) has no doubt that the companies with the greatest competitive edge are those that are led by leaders, not by managers. “The economic crisis has shown that the obsession with figures and a short-term vision only works when solving temporary problems, but by no means guarantees the company’s long term viability,” he pointed out. According to Dr Llop, “There is an obvious need for companies to overcome unexpected challenges as they arise, but at the same time, you need to think about where you want to go in the future and ensure the commitment of the entire team to head in that direction.”
Being demanding vs. promoting excellence
Dr Llop relates managers with demandingness. “You set goals that you must accomplish, or else you fail,” he says. “Then, without realising it, you convey this demanding attitude to the whole team, which creates an environment of permanent anxiety. A manager considers success as the only option.”
Contrary to this demandingness, we have excellence, which Dr Llop associates with leadership. “Although you also have to achieve results with leadership, you take acre to foster the personal and professional growth of the whole team and succeed in getting the best out of each team member while at the same time accomplishing the targeted objectives,” emphasises Dr Llop. “Even if one day you are forced to do lay-offs because of a downturn in the market, you will have contributed to each person’s growth and helped to make his or her profile competitive in the marketplace.”
Three steps for effective leadership
Although there is no single formula for effective corporate leadership, Dr Llop outlined the most important steps. As a starting point, Dr Llop refers to the work of Harvard University professor John Kotter, and a true authority on leadership and organisational change issues.
According to Dr Llop, the first step leaders must take is to define a strategic direction, or in other words, define where they want to take the organisation. “It is important to communicate both short and long-term plans to the team and to make what is needed from each member clear to achieve the goals.”
The second step is to align all the team members so that they understand the leader’s plans and are motivated to work in the same direction. “Leaders must invite their team to take part in the substantial improvement of the company,” Dr Llop recommends. “To do this, it is a good idea to ask team members what each of them can contribute, even in previously unexplored areas.”
The next step is to motivate and inspire. “It is the leader’s responsibility to build a work environment in which everyone can give their best in as few hours as possible so that they can reconcile their work with their family life,” Dr Llop points out. “You cannot demand motivation, but only foster it by involving team members in the organisation’s decisions and projects.” In his opinion, “the most competitive companies have people who are committed of their own free will, with the capacity to decide on any matter, working under a well-defined strategic management.”