Leaders and Managers: The Time Factor

Last year I was introduced to a simple, yet powerful concept describing the
breakdown of how a person in charge of people or a process (manager and/or
leader) should spend their time.

It is powerful in that it encourages all of us to reflect on where we are dedicating our time within our roles and possibly make a conscious decision to change, if necessary. The percentages are an indicative reflection of where the balance of time should be spent if you wish to be an effective leader. The power of this simple tool develops from each of us assessing where we actually spend our time as leaders of people.

In my experience many of us spend much of our time in the first two categories i.e. ‘Doing the Job’ and ‘Managing’.

In fact, one of my key coaching philosophies relates to the idea that the differences between managing and leading can be clearly delineated by understanding how much time an individual spends in the first two categories (Doing the Job and Managing) compared to the latter two (Leading and Coaching).

Where Does Your Time Go?

Consider some of the traits and elements that make up a management/leadership role such as control, trust, completing tasks, original thinking, communication, imitation, self-motivation
etc.  With a little thought it is reasonably simple to place each of the traits within either the manager or leader category. Mostly, we also recognise the benefits
and power in developing a leading and coaching style along with the many related skills and traits that enable these attributes.

The differences between effective leadership and management are well documented. Leaders and managers are very different kinds of people. They differ in motivation, personal history and how they think and act…Managers tend to adopt impersonal, if not passive, attitudes towards goals whereas leaders adopt a personal and active attitude toward goals…leaders who are concerned with ideas, relate to people in more intuitive and empathetic ways…Leaders establish direction by developing a vision of the future, then they align people by communicating this vision and inspiring them to overcome hurdles (1).

So, why is it that the majority of people in a role where an individual is required to support, develop, engage, influence, be accountable, take ownership and other requirements (leadership/coaching) fail to do so (‘doing-the-do’, management)?

What is worse, although often spoken of by senior management, these individuals are allowed to ‘get away with’ this sort of behaviour and inaction, to the detriment of all involved.

You may even know of examples where a manager is being given credit for leading a successful or high-performing team due mainly to the contribution of the individual team members, rather than effective leadership. This in itself, can be demoralising for other members of the team, however an element that is often missed is the negative impact this can have on morale and the level of discretionary effort other leaders and peers within the business choose to give.

There are many reasons why this occurs, in fact too many to list here, however what is clear is that negative behaviours and beliefs such as fear, procrastination, a lack of self-awareness, skill deficiencies and other self-defeating thoughts and actions stop many managers from becoming leaders.

The good news is that it is also clear and proven that individuals are able to change…leadership skills can be developed…effectiveness and efficiency can be gained. Part of the difference is acknowledgment and action.

“While leadership is easy to explain, leadership is not so easy to practice. Leadership is about behaviour first, skills second. Good leaders are followed chiefly because people trust and respect them, rather than the skills they possess. Leadership is different to management. Management relies more on planning, organisational and communications skills. Leadership relies on management skills too, but more so on qualities such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, wisdom, determination, compassion, sensitivity, and a degree of personal charisma” (2).

Review the ‘Balance Of Time’ model, check yourself against the percentages and take action to remedy any shortcomings whilst giving yourself credit for the good work you are doing.

Leadership is always about practicing the art, remembering that balance in all things is key, no more so than in leadership. There is no such thing as a perfect leader, but there are many managers claiming to be leaders.

Which are you?



(1) Organisational Behaviour: Robbins, Waters-Marsh, Cacioppe & Millet 1994, p. 471)

(2) BusinessBalls

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2 thoughts on “Leaders and Managers: The Time Factor

  • …all managers plan, organise, lead and control. But the amount of time they give to each function is not necessarily the same. in addition, the content of the managerial functions changes with the manager’s level. (Management: Robbins, Bergman, Stagg, Coulter 2012, p.18)

    First level managers require more focus on leadership skills as they have direct contact with the employees who are doing the work and producing the product for the organisation. Top level managers have less focus on leadership as their time is largely spent planning, organising and controlling the strategy and goals for the entire organisation.

    It can be difficult for employees to accept a manager receiving credit for successful outcomes that his/her team has achieved if that team feel that he is not a great leader, but are they also forgetting to take into consideration other management functions that he used in order to manage them effectively toward achieving their goal?

    Regardless, I agree that leadership skills are vital, and at all levels there is certainly room for us all to improve to ensure efficient and effective management. However it’s also important to recognise that leadership is one of a number of functions of management.

  • Hi Tania – thanks very much for taking the time to read my article and add your comments. It is always interesting discussing the concepts of ‘managers and leaders’, noting the differences. If I can assume that when you refer to top level managers you mean more senior managers, my view is that they should be focusing more on leadership functions and attributes i.e. planning, organising and strategising, with a core focus on leading their people to achieve the results, not less focus. At the risk of being contrary, I also believe that management is one of the functions of leadership, not the other way around. A great discussion that should be more prevalent with the number of people in leadership roles. I look forward to further discussion and thanks again.

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