Problems at work? Poor leadership is often the diagnosis and leadership development the prescription.

But it turns out transformational leadership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I recently heard Professor Deanne Den Hartog speak on research within organisations that shows charismatic or transformational leadership is useful when there is a crisis, or when followers are not confident in their abilities to do the job. When we are lost or confused we look to someone to provide direction. But when the crisis is resolved, or when followers are confident and capable, this style of leadership either doesn’t improve team performance and at worst is detrimental.

If leadership is not what is needed, management might be. Management, as I hope my tutorial students remember in their exam, is “the process of getting things done, effectively and efficiently, with and through other people”. Managers are in the people business! Good mangers have followers who will work with them to achieve agreed goals. So to be a good manager I’d argue that relationships are vital. Managers need to be human, they need to like people (without needing to always be liked) they need to be respectful and to behave consistently in ways that mean they are respected. It sounds a lot like basic good manners and social skills.

Managing oneself and others is a skill that is not as common as followers would like. But when done well it can be mistaken for leadership!