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In the past decade management gurus and the media have advocated that the “secret sauce” to success lies in becoming a leader not a manager.

Management has almost become a dirty word despite the fact that management is the essential component of delivering any leader’s vision. (See my blog defining leadership and management).  The net result of all this is leadership is now regarded as more sexy and seductive than management; more senior executives aspire to be leaders than managers.  This misconception comes at a significant loss in corporate performance.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jos Wintermans, the former CEO of Canadian Tire Acceptance Limited. Jos has successfully led more than a dozen companies during his career.  He likened leadership to a “Mars Bar” – providing a spike of energy or enthusiasm to embolden employees but it fails to sustain in longer term.  He explained that as the impact of leadership fades, so does the enthusiasm and energy within an organization. Management, he explained, is the discipline that sustains energy and enthusiasm within an organization.  It ensures that employees remain engaged, focused and energized and always able to do their best work.

I am not saying that leadership is unimportant.  Leaders point the way forward and describe the road ahead with energy that engages employees. But, after this rhetoric has faded the real hard work of implementation and execution of the plan starts.  It’s all about management.

I believe all CEOs have to face, and understand, that the higher you rise in an organization and the more employees you manage, the more management matters.  Management for chief executives – what I describe as CEO Management – enables you to best utilize every resource at your disposal in order for your organization to achieve its stated goals.  Let me go back to Jos’s comment about Mars Bars.  To effectively prevent the initial enthusiasm and energy from failing, CEOs need to identify the obstacles that hinder their employees’ effectiveness and then implement the required management systems to overcome them.

In the long term employees do not really care how charismatic you are as a leader.  They care about their immediate work environment and their ability to get their work done.  Fix their immediate challenges for them – the job of management – and you will have highly engaged employees.

There exist CEOs who strut up and down the auditorium stage telling their employees what a wonderful future they have and how new systems will enable them to do more with less… but then ignore the critical work of managing their business. Nothing will change in the immediate world of work for their employees.  The same challenges will remain that prevent them doing their best work, and employees will start to disconnect from the strategic plan, as management clearly do not intend on addressing the issues that compromise their ability to do good work and succeed.

Ignoring the management of your business is in effect implementing a long-term employee disengagement strategy!  What steps will you take today to improve your organization’s performance?

Nick Forrest

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