If you want to be a great leader - learn to be a better Manager

Author: Gordon Tinline, Business Psychologist 

If you want to progress in a large organisation, you will probably be keen to develop your leadership skills, not necessarily your management skills. After all, leaders are dynamic and forward looking, and managers are boring bureaucrats. Leadership is about direction and inspiration – how exciting. Management is about control and efficiency – yawn.

Strong management skills are vital to leadership success

The problem though is that most day-to-day organisational activities and demands need to be well managed. The pressures that we face in many businesses are often a result of poor time and task management. Of course, feeling inspired and being inspirational are positives, but they are just not enough if we are constantly buried in a heap of badly managed activities.

Look at the key drivers of stress in organisations such as excessive workload, a perceived lack of control, and feeling unsupported. Some of these risks can be mitigated by better direction setting and inspiring people, but the ability to efficiently manage these demands also has a key role to play.

By effectively managing the demands placed on you, you will be a better leader

Most of us thrive in a working life where we feel competent and effective and are occasionally challenged beyond our comfort zone. However, the reality for most leaders I meet in the workplace is that they feel constantly swamped with never enough time to do the job as well as they would like, often unappreciated, and somewhat cynical of activity that is presented as a new challenge. This is because they are burdened by too many hindrance stressors. These are demands which we see as barriers to focusing on what really matters and which we regard as wasting our time. And, if your days and weeks feel dominated by hindrance pressures there is an increased risk of psychological strain, reduced job engagement and commitment to your organisation. Work demands need to be well managed if we are to thrive and achieve our potential at work, as well as lead others effectively. So, what can you do?

  • Try to start your day by thinking about where you need to spend your time to have maximum impact. Think about how you can avoid distractions that will keep you away from what matters most, or at least prevent them taking over your day. Begin your day with a quick team meeting to discuss this
  • Spend time reflecting on how you, and your team react to new demands. Do you spend enough time considering what is most important and allocating resources (time, budget, mix of expertise) accordingly or just react to whatever pops up or who shouts loudest?
  • Regularly review your workload and think about where you need to ask for support or delegate more if you can.


If you can manage the demands and pressures placed on you, you can maximise your chances of leading effectively. If not, you will find yourself trying to make progress and change direction when you are wading through mud: possible but incredibly difficult.

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