Prior to applying for the CASS MBA I have worked for 12 years in an array of industries and across various verticals. The exposure I had to challenges in various forms and experience gained in running successful enterprises has been immense however what I believe has been of greatest benefit to me is being able to interact with different management teams with varying approaches to business and successful execution of strategy.
However, after the vocational experience gained I now believed that Management and Leadership are two states which a person can aspire towards that are inter dependent.
If an academic approach is taken, then as a starting point, one would need to analyse the established definitions of the two terms. The Oxford Dictionary definition of Management is “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people” however when it comes to the workplace environment this definition quickly evaporates into the “shop-floor” definition, which frames Management as the collective body which is seen to be doing something. Conversely the Oxford Dictionary definition of Leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do so”. It is the ability aspect of this
definition which generally resides in the minds of the majority.
However, as we’re not seeking an academic viewpoint I believe that inherently due to the definition of the two concepts it is very easy to become a part of management yet achieving leadership is far more of a struggle. A hands on leader may be considered by some as effectively a focused manager. A leader should be very aware that his time needs to be split between managing and leading and from this awareness rises the notion of leadership.
As a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management I am keenly aware of the need to cultivate responsible leadership to deliver an executable mandate to a proactive management team. If we were to breakdown management & leadership then we are left with a manager & a leader who are given different roles as part of their stewardships of an organisation. This differential of roles is evident through a couple of points highlighted by Warren Bennis in his book “On becoming a leader” that, “the manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.” and secondly “the manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.” Thus I prescribe to the concept of leadership as being aware of the long term vision and how to steer all stakeholders into that direction.
At the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, Professor Sendhill Mullainathan of Harvard University & Professor Eldar Shafir of Princeton University presented part of their research, which is to be published in their book “Scarcity: Why having too little means so much”. Their research showed a correlation of how the mindset of a person with limited time tends to make an error in judgement due to the pressure of time. This I believe is where lies the distinction of Management & Leadership. When an entrepreneur is starting their venture they are under great strain to take their idea/concept off the ground. Not only are they charged with breathing life into their idea, they also have to see it through to the end. Thus following the notion of Scarcity, a person who focuses on the end goal is able to limit his vision to this goal and thereby in doing so they are able to achieve success as they are not been distracted by various obstacles. This in my opinion creates one of the core foundations to becoming a manager who can demonstrate great leadership.
Another way in which I believe there is a clear distinction between Management and
Leadership is found in the prerequisites of becoming a leader. The adage of “a natural born leader” is very rarely seen, more over I have been fortunate enough to experience at first hand that to attain leadership one has to climb the ranks. By having “rolled up ones sleeves” and become part of the engine which runs the organisation one is able to understand the process acutely and thus when one progresses into management one’s methodology of working is routed in the knowledge of how the process works. However, ultimately as one progresses and exalts towards being a leader, true Leadership will shine through as one is able to recognise how the delivery mechanism of one’s vision will materialise.
Therefore for me personally the ultimate goal of attaining an MBA is to be able to pull
together all the vocational experiences of my past 12 years and fill in any inadequacies in my knowledge with further academic logic in order to become a more refined leader, such that under my stewardship my management team is able to ensure that our organisation is consistently thriving.
Originally written in July 2013 as my submission of the Entrepreneurship Scholarship Essay, for my CASS Executive MBA