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November 2020 – Question of the Month

November 17, 2020 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question of the Month: Are there people who prefer to be managed rather than led?

Answer: The universal answer to the question “who would you work for willingly?” is “a giver, not a taker” – that is, “someone who is in the relationship to care for and grow me”. So in the sense that caring and growing people is leadership, not management, generally people want to be led not managed.

But there are two caveats to that statement. Firstly, while all people want the person they respect to have a genuine concern for their wellbeing, to care for them as a human being not as a human resource, not everyone wants “tough love”. They may want the “nice” part of care but not the kind of care which enables them to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for the situations that they are in.

They prefer to remain “looked after”, dependent and needy rather than being supported to become strong and self-reliant.

Secondly, there are people who don’t want to be empowered.

They may not be capable of taking on more accountability. There are some people who don’t want the responsibility and accountability which goes with being empowered.
There is also a small minority of people who can’t be trusted with what they have been entrusted with. It is also true that after a long period of being micromanaged and disempowered, not everyone leaps forward with alacrity to embrace freedom to operate and make decisions independently of their manager.

But one of the core distinctions between managers and leaders is the product of their endeavours. Managers produce results – they don’t care whether their people are mediocre or not, as long as the results are achieved. Leaders, on the other hand, are relentless in the pursuit of excellence in their people as an end in itself.

The path to excellence is not the easy path. But I remain convinced that most people do really want to realise the best in themselves, to become the best they can be. Most do want to be led, not managed.

Wendy Lambourne
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