Boss a swear word?

by Therese Johansson

When I work with leadership development, I dictate the importance of having a balance between management and leadership and point out that the lack of one or the other is not beneficial for the development of the business. Many times people frown when I mention leadership; I guess the word itself brings back memories of bad experiences. When I talk about leadership, however, it usually arouses great interest and commitment in my audience. My wish is that we understand what leadership really is and stop identifying it with people who do not have the right skills for the task but who, unfortunately, have been given the title of boss.

What then is management and leadership?

It is important to have leadership within the strict corporate values. We must first ensure that we live up to the visions, business goals, strategies and policies that have been determined for the company. It can be compared to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A higher need of a person or a company, such as emotional gratification, cannot be satisfied unless the more basic ones, such as security and survival, have already been secured. We must be able to guarantee that the business lives up to a sustainable value base and corporate culture by having the courage to make attitude corrections and show the right direction. It may require tough decisions for what is best for the business, decisions that create negative feelings in the human capital. Here, leadership is important to maintain the framework and ensure that all resources in the company work for the good of the company. "Money talks" and without capital we cannot afford to pay our costs, which makes leadership necessary to create sustainable and profitable businesses.

Leadership creates committed, motivated and involved followers. Without leadership, we do not get a committed and responsible workforce in our organizations, we need motivated teams that are determined to get down to the task, out of their own will and strength. This is not created by leadership, but we need to be competent leaders with the ability to find triggers for different people's motivational factors and what tasks they are suited to perform. In addition, the leader needs to have competence in putting together well-oiled work teams and then developing these teams. Leaders with high EQ often have a natural leadership style and are unaware of their leadership ability, it is part of their personality. Others may need a little help along the way to achieve the same level of leadership, something I personally have experience working with at NLC. It is easier to teach a leader leadership than to teach a manager leadership.

The balance between management and leadership

The magic happens when the manager/leadership is in balance and it is a natural part for the manager/leader to commute between the two without it being artificial and contrived but well practiced so it feels natural for the employees. It creates both clarity in the organizations, which instills security, while at the same time it creates participation, motivation and productivity on set tasks. I have the privilege of working with two very capable gentlemen who possess these skills and it is wonderful to watch their progress in their respective businesses. For a manager/leadership geek like myself, I get chills, I could guess that a football fanatic feels the same way to see Zlatan excel on the football pitch.

The courage to venture into co-leadership

If you have achieved the degree of maturity in manager/leadership, which I find in these two gentlemen, you can easily let go of co-leadership in your business. By co-leadership, I mean that we let the power come from below the business and ensure that they are involved in the development of the tactics to make the business achieve the company goals. Getting co-leadership in the operations up and running requires a courageous and competent manager/leadership. When it gets going, you as a manager/leader have to hold onto your hat, because then it goes away.

It takes years of building to get to that level of maturity in businesses, but I'm sure it's every competent leader's dream situation. When the teamwork between manager/leader and employees interacts, it is a real joy to watch. I easily get excited to see fine examples of smooth collaborations between managers/leaders and employees. For me, it's the same as seeing the perfect pass, between midfield and forward, that results in a nice goal. It is when we work together that we become stronger.