Leadership: where to start?


Blog by Dr Richard More on an intro to leadership, management and administration.

I was very pleased to be asked to do a session at the Royal College of Radiologists on leadership for their clinical directors. It’s always an honour to be asked to contribute outside your core craft (in my case general practice) but doubly nerve racking.

When thinking about leadership I always try and be clear that sometimes I talk about “leadership” and “leadership practice”. This is because I have found that what I do at work is a tangled mess of leadership, management and process administration that when added up looks like senior management. This is different from the academic study of leadership from the schools of psychology and business.

Our behaviours as senior managers inevitably affect how we are viewed as leaders and therefore is worthy of discussion and reflection when thinking of our own leadership development. Yes I appreciate this goes round in a circle. The quote I often used to support that is from Kouzes and Posner:

“If you don’t believe the messenger you won’t believe the message”.

I am fairly sure that we have all come across people whose administration was so unreliable that, in the true sense of the words, you couldn’t really believe a word they say. Those people cannot possibly function as leaders.

I then like to think about what is management and the quote I use there is:

“To manage is to forecast and plan, to organise, to command, to coordinate and to control.”

I try and emphasise the second part and how it is making sure what the team has agreed needs doing is actually done. This leaves a clear gap, deliberately, on who and how do we side what actually needs done. This for me leads into probably the most helpful quote which is from (the very famous in business schools) Peter Drucker:

“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing”.

That leads seamlessly into Warren and Bennis (1987):

“Clearly articulate and travel towards a vision for the future”.

These two above quotes distinguished leadership from management for me. It is the sense of initiative and doing things that we wouldn’t otherwise have done.

From there we can get into the nature of power, and critically how we can distinguish and determine the differences between legitimate deployment of power (leadership) and the illegitimate (bullying).

Spending time unpicking these concepts I have found helpful in that it gives a language and a framework for discussion and reflection more often with self and with others. It has helped me think how I can best behave to hit the right balance between leadership/management/administration which is different in my different roles at different times.

"If you don't believe the messenger you won't believe the message".