Managers Can Be Developed, but Leaders Are Born, Not Made

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The title statement relates to a broad misunderstanding that hinders the development of leaders in the work place; the misconception that leadership cannot be developed. This misconception hinders companies’ optimal productivity in the current economic circumstances where change is constant. When one looks at the related literature it is clear that there is general agreement that leadership is something that can indeed be developed. It is, however, not a case of taking just any person and developing him or her into a leader, as personal qualities and characteristics are important; as well as the presence of a pro-leadership development culture in the workplace.

The roots of the misconception about leadership development lie in the views held by people and companies about what constitutes a leader. Conger (2004: 136) says that people, when thinking of leaders, think of popular individuals like Mahatma Ghandi or Margaret Thatcher. These people can be described as ‘bigger than life’ and people thus think leadership is something unattainable to the more ordinary. She goes on to say that many workplaces reinforce this misconception by believing that people with the leadership potential will emerge through a process of natural selection – the cream will rise to the top. The result is that many companies see formal training as only being part of management development and neglect leadership development in the process.

Today there is no more doubt that management and leadership are two separate concepts. It is, however, true that a manager may possess leadership qualities and that a leader in a company may also play a managerial role (Ruvolo, et al. 2004: 10). The difference is that management focus is on the transactional and that of leadership on the transformational.

The main purpose of managers is to maximise the output of the company or organisation they work for by ensuring that...
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