Business Opinions & People

Manage, lead or both

by Su Aziz

According to speakers from the 13th WIEF in Kuching, Sarawak, whether you’re a manager, leader or both, you’ll need to relook at what qualities will make an effective leader of the pack.

The first day of the 13th WIEF buzzed with its opening ceremony, as well as the exhibition hall where 55 exhibitors from nine countries and a variety of industries, showcased their products and services. Also, a few main sessions were kickstarted before the eventful day ended with a gala dinner. Its second day had parallel sessions with experts discussing current issues on affecting the economy such as business and technology.

One of the parallel sessions was the Masterclass and five topics were covered during its sessions. Nine speakers not only presented informative lectures on Internet of Things, herbology, disruptive marketing, leadership, and SMEs in the halal value chain, but also answered some niggling questions on these topics. However, we’re highlighting one of the five topics, an interesting issue highlighted that affect virtually everyone in the business world: what are the essential differences between management and leadership?

Throw out the traditional perception of management which, according to a Forbes article on management vs leadership, is task-based and mechanical, thus rendering it insufficient for today’s working world because, ‘The presumption is that the machine is more important and more powerful than anyone who helps to run it’.

Furthermore, the Forbes article reports, ‘Today we know that empathetic, trust-based human leadership isn’t only the most effective way to lead a team but also the most profitable way to run a company.’ Seemingly, EQ trumps most else, in this digital age.

Management vs leadership, or a melding of both?

Business should have a balance between getting the organisation in order and inspiring the team to steer the business into new territories and innovative domains. So, what were the essential management and leadership traits we should be aware of? Here, we revert to the speakers during the 13th WIEF Masterclass.

A speaker, Martin Tan, executive director of the Institute for Societal Leadership in Singapore, argued that management and leadership traits had shifted. ‘What if these two terms [leadership and management] have a certain connotation because of mental models we have developed throughout our corporate line?’ Martin questioned.

‘Our worldview determines how we position ourselves,’ he explained and according to him conditioning minds was something we were built with because of our upbringing, religious backgrounds, nationalities, where we lived and where we studied. But how did that explain the difference between management and leadership?

Martin, during his decade-long career, had trained around 100,000 people in 70 per cent of Singaporean schools. He clarified that, even though the perception of managers was one who did things right, and leaders were those who did the right things, they were actually one and the same.

‘Most job requirements want to hire managers because most of the jobs are managerial duties,’ he said. ‘The reality is that we’re looking at the same people and if we start dichotomising the two and making them exclusive, we’ll have an artificial divide.’ He stressed that all of us had to do both – some might be better at one than the other, that was when development and an understanding of collaboration might be useful.

A leader knows when to apply skills

Roshan Thiran, chief executive officer of Leaderonomics in Malaysia, agreed that everything was becoming integrated and that blurred the line between them. He asserted that leadership was the main culprit when it came to success or failure of a business. Roshan argued that all the leadership skills that were taught were good but people couldn’t be taught when to use those skills at the right time.

‘One can’t be given instructions to swim without the person actually practicing it. [Just] like water waves that changes everything, the context changes everything, no matter what skills one has,’ Roshan explained. Things that frustrated employees, according to him, included clarity, structures and the office culture.  ‘Leaders are necessary to inspire and dream but his [or her] only hope is to have those who strive for the common good of society, with managers who help us get there,’ Martin concluded.

Last words

Referring to the same Forbes article quoted earlier, there are five traits that separate the two – here’s where you can see if you concur or otherwise – leaders have a mission, are self-aware, risk their trust in their team members, learn continuously and they speak up. So, what of managers? From our viewpoint, we see managers tend to be the one who always know what to do, call the shots and run a well-oiled department, so leaders can be all the traits listed, while inspiring and providing the dream. In short, a manager and leader, when they concern two separate individuals, they tend to play good cop, bad cop. Yes, that makes sense.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

5 Jul 2018
Last modified: 16 Jul 2018
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