Malaysia: Leading vs Managing

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. —Nelson Mandela

I almost forgot I had a blog…seriously

Politics (not to mention our currency) have take a good beating in the last few weeks and all sign on the wall does not seems to say it is all well in the Bolehland. The country is facing a serious lack of leadership if you have not noticed this by now.

Leadership has always been my favorite subject mainly because it is fascinating to see how some ordinary people found that special will, power and determination to bring a group of people, company and even a nation from the brink of disaster or crisis and remained a beacon of hope and inspiration to others. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and even our own Tunku Abdul Rahman are just some of the leaders that we can read from the history pages but there are many leaders in the corporate world, politics and community that have done things that simply amazing.

It is also my favorite subject because in my daily working life, I have to take up the role of a leader and thus expected to make good decisions that a good leader is expected to be. Then again, I am also expected to both lead and manage – we will come to the differences in a short while. Some are simply natural born leaders – such as one of my ex-bosses. Some are trained to be leaders but still struggling to find the right foot hold on the idea of leadership.

As I said, the country is facing a serious lack of leadership if you have not noticed this by now.

I am not talking about the Prime Minister remaining to be defiant on the question of RM2.6 billion “donation” and acts like nothing wrong had happened. It was rather comical AND embarrassing when Malaysia hosted the International Anti-Corruption Conference last September and it did not take long for the participants (Transparency International Chief Jose Ugaz in particular) to whack the Prime Minister on the RM2.6 billion donation.

Tunku Abdul Rahman was known as the Father of the Nation and marked his leadership with getting independence for this great nation. Tun Abdul Razak was the Father of Development (the famed FELDA was established under his premiership). Hussein Onn was the Father of National Unity and finally Dr M was the real architect in modernising the country. And despite all the shortcomings, the Old Man did come up with a proper vision for the future – Vision 2020.

After Dr M, the country’s leadership took a back seat and the deterioration started with Pak Lah. Other than nice to hear slogans such as “work with me, don’t work for me” and “1Malaysia” nothing much change yet to be seen over the horizon. The bigger question will then be – are we running out of good leaders to lead this country? And secondly, can we get one in before it is too late? And who do we need the most at this juncture when the economy is not doing that well – good leaders or good managers?

And mind you that leadership and management are 2 different things but as usual as I often find out, the line between the 2 is often blurred.

Leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

Still, much ink has been spent delineating the differences. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.

In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences:

– The manager administers; the leader innovates.
– The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
– The manager maintains; the leader develops.
– The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
– The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
– The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
– The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
– The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
– The manager imitates; the leader originates.
– The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
– The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
– The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Perhaps there was a time when the calling of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. A foreman in an industrial-era factory probably didn’t have to give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. His or her job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency.

(Source)

To be frank, there is no short of managers in this country especially when it comes to politics. We have some of the most brilliant minds in public service and the private sectors. That is almost guaranteed. We can manage things well, sometimes too well. Ever heard the notion of “first class infrastructure, third class mentality”? Yup, that’s Malaysia right there.

However, recently there is a feeling of stagnancy (and no thanks to the dreadful haze) and the feeling is all over the place – the economy, people, education, environment, etc. Increasingly we are looking at 2 faced leaders who says one thing and do another. We had rallies but it ended up making things worse and hardly helping the country as whole. Leadership, it is missing now.

Until next time…

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