<!-- 18. --> Leadership in Management

Knowledge era

Knowledge era

Managing in the knowledge era

The fundamental question in this process of transition is a simple one: if we have got the right people with the right skills and motivation, then why do we need people wandering around and checking up on them? Accordingly many leaders have now redefined their expectations of day- to-day management. Taking personal responsibility for your day-to-day actions is the current mantra. This approach acknowledges the major shifts that have occurred in the world of work. Traditional notions of what constitutes value in the organization, such as capital and plant equip­ment, are rapidly, if not already, being replaced by the notion of intellectual capital that places a premium on brands, skills, imagina­tion and people capabilities as the sources of competitive advantage. This approach demands a very different concept to managing others. Instead of checking and controlling, the manager is expected to act as an enabler and facilitator of talent – in effect they assume the role of a coach. This need to empower people to take responsibility for their actions will only accelerate in the face of relentless global markets and competition.

This new model for management requires people who have:

  • A high level of interpersonal skills and an ability to commu­nicate, motivate and mobilize others towards common and shared goals.
  • The ability to create a positive working atmosphere in which people feel free to communicate their ambitions and ideas but who also feel comfortable raising concerns and chal­lenging others, even their boss.
  • The ability to involve people in decision making processes and secure their commitment to any stated aims and objectives.

The knowledge era also requires managers who are comfortable working on strategic activities and with conceptual thinking. They need to deal with abstract concepts more than ever and must be able to view the organization as a total system, rather than through narrow functional perspectives such as sales, finance, information technology or produc­tion. The ability to use conceptual thinking skills is critical as it raises peoples horizons above day-to-day operational thinking. You have to be able to view the wider corporate, market and business environment. Many managers have lost out in terms of career development and advance­ment if they were judged to be lacking in a strategic perspective. But today such skills apply to any executive in any organization, regardless of their position. The fact is that in this knowledge era the emphasis for managers is on thinking, not doing! For many of us this is the great chal­lenge as we often fall into the trap of confusing being busy with being effective. Too often in today’s business world we don’t have time to think, it is all about getting on and getting the job done. But the fact is that thinking skills carry a premium in today’s business world.

Adapting the process of managing to the knowledge era

To understand management in this new knowledge era is to view it as a dynamic process that consists of four critical stages: Setting the direc­tion, Empowering, Enabling, and Reviewing.

Setting the direction This involves setting out the big picture and future business direction. Providing focus and a compelling vision for people is one of the critical differentiators of effective leaders. It requires us to engage people so as to secure their commitment to the stated goals and objectives. Drawn from the classic POSCoRB model this process retains the essential elements of setting out and then agreeing the results that need to be achieved.

Empowering others

Empowerment became one of the great buzz words of 1990s corporate life. But few people really understood what it meant and as a result it became a much abused word. Essentially empowerment is not about giving people limitless freedom to do whatever they want, but rather a process for providing people with clear levels of accountability and responsibility. Mark Brown an author and consultant has developed a very elegant model to clarify this concept. It provides a way in which we can audit our approach to delegating responsibilities to staff. Using his model, managers simply need to be clear with their people on the following areas:

  •  No Go. These are areas or tasks that staff have no responsibility or involvement with – they are the strict domain of the manager.
  •  Know Go. These are areas or issues where, provided the manager involved has been consulted and given permission to the indi­vidual to proceed, they can then act – but they must get authorization beforehand.
  • Go Know. This involves tasks or issues whereby someone can act but they have to keep their manager advised of what they have done. Significantly though, the notification of what was done does not need to be reported before or immediately after

the event. It can be done through a later meeting, email or formal report.

• Go. This is the field in which people can act without any refer­ence to their manager – they are empowered to act without reference to their manager or boss.

Enabling others

A leader or manager who ‘enables’ others ensures that people have the necessary level of resources and capabilities to deliver their agreed objectives. To ‘enable’ as leader or manager we will be communicating fully with our people and attempting to free them from unnecessary organizational obstacles or interference in order to allow them to deliver results.

Reviewing performance

The final stage of our management process involves reviewing perform­ance and taking corrective action for future performance improvement. This is not about simply checking up on people but rather it involves a detailed discussion with the team and individuals to see if the best possible results have been achieved. It will also identify any learning from the experience and possible new opportunities to improve future perform­ance. To make all of this happen we need to become accomplished people managers.

Under this empowerment model we are, as effective leaders, required to generate the optimum organizational conditions to enable people to flourish and grow as unique individuals. The focus is on cultivating a clear and guiding sense of individual worth, responsibility and commit­ment to the overall organizational vision. This is in contrast to an organization that has a dependency culture whereby people are unable to function without a manager constantly directing proceedings and checking up on them. Of course broad direction still exists in our model but the focus is very much allowing the individual to become self directed. Again the manager’s role becomes that of a coach and facilitator.

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