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Too many managers and too few leaders

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Jackie Launder, from the Human Performance Practice at The IQ Business Group (image source: file photo)

“South Africa is not unique in the world. Globally, the same problem of too many managers and too few leaders presents itself time and again,” says Jackie Launder from the Human Performance Practice at The IQ Business Group.

“As organisations we are good at developing operationally efficient managers, but ineffective at developing and supporting leaders who are inspirational, engaging and are able to lead into the future,” explains Launder.

One of the main reasons for the current leadership vacuum is the antiquated bureaucratic systems and processes that make – effective and proactive leadership impossible.

“We say we want transformational, accountable and courageous leaders, but then design or continue with complicated and stifling processes and systems that end up with efficient robots to do our bidding. We do not foster the environment for leaders to thrive as the culture of our organisations generally seem to be stuck in the past and not focused on progress and the future.

The world is changing and the requirements from leaders have also changed. We need to be clear about the type of leaders we want and need and then be courageous and proactive about creating an environment conducive to developing leaders. However leaders may be brought to the fore, (born, bred or forged), new systems supporting them need to be created in tandem,” says Launder.

Another challenge to the development of leaders is training programmes. There are so many available, and many of them are very good and yet they don’t work, why? Leader’s go on life changing and behaviour altering workshops that inspire and enables them to see what it could be, only to go back into an environment that has stayed the same and therefore requires “old” behaviour.

Learning and development is also generally focused on generic outcomes and a typical curriculum approach as opposed to, ‘what do we really need to develop or change to sustainably enhance and drive business performance’.

Learning and development programmes have remained static while the needs, roles and requirements of leaders in the workplace have changed.

“Development and learning needs to be part of the DNA of any good leader, however, any learning engagement or intervention should be focused on improving and sustainably enhancing performance with a clear application back in the workplace. With the mass of information available to us today, what people know is not as important as knowing how to effectively and efficiently apply their knowledge and in addition to this maintaining agility to adapt to an ever changing and progressing market environment Training or rather learning needs to ensure improvement in performance and should not just be about ticking HR training and development boxes,” explains Launder.

In the end, true leadership does not come with a title or pay grade. Being an inspirational leader who is able to motivate others is about how you behave and whether or not people are able to trust your intentions. Behaviour change, then, is an essential requirement of leadership development. Everyone within an organisation should be encouraged to take the lead in their sphere of influence, however big or small.

Many leaders today have lost the passion they once had, and have forgotten the essence of why they got into their line of work in the first place. For fear of losing their jobs and income they have stopped questioning and challenging and looking for new ways to execute their initial vision, they are now just doing their job. If we enable leaders in our organisations to truly lead, allow them to make decisions and create environments that fosters development, innovation recognition and the opportunity to possibly fail without retribution we will have come a long way in overcoming the leadership challenges we currently face.

“Currently it is too scary to lead, it’s safer to manage. In essence the current executive needs to understand that fostering leadership within the ranks, will not diminish their impact but will rather free them up to focus on what needs to change to ensure a sustainable future and legacy. If you want strong leaders, let people be who they are and the leaders will emerge. When recruiting leaders for specific behaviours and attributes do not try and change them to fit the structure,” concludes Launder.

Jackie Launder, from the Human Performance Practice at The IQ Business Group


  1. Good article. The key is however to merge management skills with leadership attributes where circumstances require it. Too many managers believe that all they need to do is to sit back and let their subordinates do the work…this is where leadership should kick in. Good managers lead by example.

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