Jorma Ollila has spoken in an interview of the caring atmosphere which
distinguished Nokia, the mobile phone giant, from other companies he has
worked for. When one person felt tired or sick the others would rally
round and cover for that person by cancelling meetings, rearranging
schedules and so on.
In my previous article, “Successful Leaders versus Failed Leaders” I also
promised to talk about the differences between managers and leaders, and
it behoves me to make the distinction clear before proceeding any
further. Abraham Zaleznik in his article for the Harvard Business Review,
“Managers and Leaders: Are they Different?”says that leaders and managers
differ in respect of their personal history, motivation and personality. He has
talked about managers as people who feel content with the status quo and
argues that managers tend to get on well in hierarchical cultures. Managers
get their targets and goals more from outside and their relation to them is
therefore more objective
Leaders, on the other hand, are innovators. They have faced during their life
history the kind of experiences that make them yearn for change. They are
more intuitive, and try bring about changes in order to achieve their visions.
The crunch comes, however, when leaders by leading from the front have
to lay down their own lives, and the lives of others – a whole lot easier to do –
in the single minded pursuit of these visions. Successful wartime leaders often
make failed peacetime leaders and vice versa. By analogy companies where
things are going well require a different sort of leadership from companies
that are struggling for their existence.
However managers need to motivate their teams too and it is a sine qua non
that you manage people as well as processes, and managing people successfully
is often far more complex. So in that sense leadership is an indispensable
feature of management.
Herein lies the dilemma because one of the most critical challenges that companies
face is maintaining the spirit and motivation of its staff at a constantly high level.
The other day I saw the modern version of the film “The White Feather”. In the film
a young officer refuses to accompany his fellow officers to wage war in the Sudan.
His erstwhile officers and friends offer him four white feathers, a symbol of cowardice.
He is deeply wounded by this gesture, and embarks on a journey of personal
discovery and salvation by going off to the Sudan and saving the lives of the very
same officers who sent him the white feathers. At the end of the film one of the
officers who was rescued gives a sermon in which he in effect says that empires come
and go but in the final analysis one lays down one’s life not for an abstract notion like
queen and country but for the man standing next in line.
In the same way one does not put oneself on the line for the company, but often for a
principle or vision, or for a fellow worker next in line to yourself. And it is the latter
spirit that I referred to in the opening paragraph. If you can create that kind of
atmosphere of solidarity and team spirit then you have a winning team. It is said that
you lead by example, and so managers need to lead from the front, too. And where you
have a closely knit team you also inevitably need high levels of trust: ‘Trust capital’ as it
is otherwise known. A sense of solidarity is created well expressed in the words of the
three musketeers in the eponymous novel by Alexander Dumas, “All for one and one for
all”. This atmosphere of trust and solidarity is also a climate where people are unafraid of
expressing their views and ideas to others. Herein lies the key to innovation and creativity
– the free exchange of ideas. A kind of hothouse in which new ideas emerge.
Above all, it requires a manager who is not afraid of changing the status quo. One who is
not threatened by the emergence of new ideas and ways of thinking. It requires managers
with leadership skills; every manager should pose him or herself the fundamental question,
“Have I got what it takes?” and if not, “What must I do to get it?”