There are leaders and then there are business enterprise leaders. The skills and the disciplines required to be a leader or a manager in the twenty first century are huge. I keep pleading, ‘never make someone a manager unless they “get” people’. The core skills of a manager are people skills, they are about dealing effectively with people. The clue is in the first three letters of the word manager. We might refer to ‘man managers’ but I wonder are there any other sorts? In addition to those core people skills which we may examine in depth another time, there are a whole multitude of other skills that may be required for any particular role; marketing skills, knowing and understanding the numbers, strategy, tactics, selling, process, organisation, technical skills to name just a few. So, the demands on the modern manager are many and significant. They are a lifetime in the learning.
But there are often roles for the manager over and above the obvious which can multiply the complexity. Many businesses choose to organise themselves through what we might call a senior leadership team, charged with making enterprise wide decisions and implementing them. The members of that senior leadership team have an eyewatering degree of complexity to deal with. I might refer to this special band of individuals as business enterprise leaders. They are charged, not only with running their own area of the business, but also of being part of an overall decision-making entity.
This potentially involves a number of conflicts and paradoxes. At one and the same time, they are likely to be accountable for their own section or department, including the people therein, whilst also being a member of a more senior team requiring them to both lead and follow. A good leader will be loyal to, and have faith in, their own team. A business enterprise leader will also need to acknowledge that they are a part of another, more senior team. The loyalties to the senior team must always trump the loyalties to the team they lead.
It takes a very special person to lead effectively. It takes a very special person to be a good team member. Our business enterprise leader must be both and be both at the same time.
It is entirely possible that a good manager may not be able to take their place on a senior leadership team unless and until they can develop the skills needed to be a great team member, to handle the paradoxes that will inevitably arise and to occasionally sublimate the interest of their own area for the greater good. But those who are capable of holding these two quite conflicting roles have a great contribution to make to any enterprise and should be cherished, nurtured and cultivated as rare and precious.