All companies and organizations regardless of the sector of operation strive for exceptional organizational performance and economic excellence. However, it is impossible to achieve these strategic objectives without designing an appropriate strategy for organizing employees and directing their work. To drive organizational development, companies require managers and leaders. Nevertheless, it is imperative to recognize that there are some specific differences between these two positions. It is vital to note that a manager and a leader can be the same person, even though in real life they are not. Still, their roles and characteristics are differing.
The role of managers and leaders in an organization
The company under consideration is Toyota. To begin with, in this organization, there is a significant distinction between leaders and managers, as managers are those, who grow leaders and help them to teach others the values of the company and lean philosophy (Liker & Convis 2012).
Moreover, it is believed that managers should change over time and become leaders of team leaders, but keeping official authority and all roles mentioned above. As for leaders, their primary roles at Toyota are to guarantee their self-improvement as well as coach others of the significance of personal development and their value for achieving the company’s values and prosperity as well as aligning goals related to Toyota’s vision (Womack & Shook n.d.).
However, there are still other significant differences. To begin with, a manager is a set of job duties. The key characteristic of a manager is the authority granted by an occupied position. The scope of power can differ based on the position and responsibilities, but it is always given documentarily. Moreover, they are people responsible for managing the activities of ordinary employees, i.e. determining tasks, estimating performance, coaching employees, budgeting, managing resources, and focusing on results (O’Neill 2011).
Moreover, they possess resources for controlling employees and managing their work. Their roles are informational (distributing the latest news and valuable information), interpersonal (creating an appropriate atmosphere in the workplace), and decisional (making critical decisions regarding addressing work-related issues, assigning tasks, etc.) (Schroeder 2013).
On the other hand, leaders are a set of personal character traits. The source of their power is informal, i.e. it is not supported by organizational documents. Nevertheless, because of their performance or communication styles, they have followers. Unlike managers, leaders do not focus on controlling other team members. They are not related to budgeting and managing resources. However, they possess the power for motivating them to improve performance and productivity. These resources are effective communication skills and an appropriate leadership style (Chiu, Balkundi, & Weinberg 2016). Besides, another primary difference of a leader is a positive connection with employees because they are usually chosen by people, not senior executives (O’Neill 2011).
Still, the differences mentioned above are not the only specificities of management and leadership. To obtain an in-depth understanding of these two roles within a company, it is essential to view them in different situational concepts. For instance, interpersonal relations within a team, implementing changes, and conflicts and the role of managers and leaders in addressing these situations will be reviewed. These situations will be reviewed within the context of Toyota.
Viewing team relations from the perspective of managers and leaders
The first example that will be reviewed is the perception of relations within a team. To begin with, it is essential to note that in Toyota, the role of constant improvement – kaizen philosophy – is significant. That is why the difference in viewing team members by managers and leaders is critical. That said, managers believe that team members are tiny elements working in one machine. Because they are interconnected, they are easily interchangeable.
This belief derives from the very essence of management, as they are taught to see people as a set of skills and competencies necessary for coping with particular tasks or addressing certain problems occurring in the workplace. From this perspective, management is limited because it misses one crucial element of cooperation – communication aimed at understanding colleagues’ specific talents or inclinations in work.
On the other hand, a leader perceives team members differently. First of all, they are seen as personal traits and aspirations. Creative potential is valued. That is why leaders tend to view each situation and project from a new perspective and never avoid reorganization within a team if shifting functions would be beneficial for an organization or individuals. It means that team members are seen not as interchangeable machine elements but as those, who run the organizational machine by deploying their creative potential, specialized knowledge, and talents. Moreover, leaders never strive for achieving the automated process of addressing similar cases because it eliminates creativity (Ryan 2016).
In this case, both managers and leaders are most likely to choose MBO – management by objective. The rationale for pointing to this theory is the fact that focus is on organizational performance and achieving particular goals regardless of the long-term influence of reorganizations in teams on the company (Koontz & Weihrich 2010).
However, there is a difference between the two, as a leader would choose the participatory variation of this theory, i.e. motivate employees to become involved in identifying objectives and ways to achieve them, while managers would ignore this option based on their authority and significance of improving performance. To sum up, in the case of viewing team members as a set of interchangeable skills, opportunities for constant improvement are minimized due to the lack of motivation to elaborate new skills, as employees feel that they can be easily replaced. Instead, perceiving them as individuals is a robust stimulus for self-development.
In terms of assessing the perception of team members, it is also critical to focus on the decision-making process. In most cases, managers choose to make decisions based on frameworks determined by official organizational documents and falling upon the personal authority to address challenges. It means that they are isolated from the opinions of team members and rarely rely on them. That said, they choose an autocratic style, i.e. believe that managers are a top authority and their opinion should be valued.
Instead, leaders are open-minded and realize that the emergence of a problem is connected to the performance and productivity of team members. Based on this assumption, no decisions should be made without the involvement of people, as they are aware of system specificities and know how it works. At the same time, it is imperative to recognize that all decisions affect the whole system, i.e. think systemically. This approach is known as systems leadership.
It is related to becoming flexible, embracing change willingly, and enhancing open communication (Boylan 2016; Pinnow 2011). Also, they deploy participatory style, i.e. involve others in making critical decisions. In this case, it is as well essential to recall such concepts as situational leadership, i.e. changing leadership and communication styles to correspond with the requirements of a particular situation and find the most productive way to cope with it (Kennedy 2013).
The role of leaders and managers in introducing changes
Another common situational context is embracing change. An appropriate Toyota-related example is the introduction of smart bolts in the assembly lines to reduce the risks of low-quality manufacturing. This situation is related to the necessity of developing new skills to use new technologies properly. In most cases, managers will react to changes in the same manner – deploying motivation tools.
This motivation is most commonly reflected in the system of rewards and benefits as tools for negative and positive motivation (e.g. bonuses for learning to work with new technologies and penalties for ignoring the significance of change). This approach is limited because no external factors are taken into consideration. On the other hand, leaders have a differing approach to addressing similar changes.
They choose to estimate the external environment to identify the causes of the changes and either eradicate them or turn them into a part of the corporate culture. For instance, they would point to positive changes the introduction of smart bolts would entail. It means that they are flexible and willing to alter the organizational environment every time there is an opportunity to increase chances for the company’s success and its profits. Here, they as well motivate participation.
This approach is referred to as contingency in leadership. According to this theory, the focus is made on relations instead of tasks, i.e. participation of team members in addressing the change instead of solely improving performance as a strategic objective (Lussler 2017).
This approach applies to Toyota, as it values corporate culture. Moreover, the decision to enhance participation and involvement is always made based on the maturity of team members and their skills, i.e. once a leader realizes that team members are competent and professional, they become a critical element of the decision-making process and decide how to address any changes instead of strictly following guidelines determined documentarily (Gold, Thorpe, & Mumford 2010). It is as well common for Toyota because of the desire to create a ‘one Toyota’ culture (Liker & Convis 2012).
Chaos/complexity and impact of leaders and managers
Finally, in Toyota, there is a delicate balance between chaos and complexity, as the company spends almost 2 years for training employees so that they could occupy a proper niche within the system (Liker & Convis 2012). Because in lean philosophy each individual should be able to cope with multiple functions, the risks of chaos are significant because Toyota is a nonlinear organization.
In this case, leaders avoid growing programmed in treating employees and addressing work-related issues, while managers do not and give preference to programming and automation of operations (Gold, Thorpe, & Mumford 2010). However, from this perspective, chaos is a positive development because it leads to creativity and performance improvements, as over time everyone finds appropriate space within a system and benefits it (Banerjee 2013).
To sum up, leadership and management are two roles, which cannot be avoided in the workplace, as they make up the foundation of corporate growth and success. However, there is a significant difference between the two not only in communication style but also given authority. Nowadays, this difference is critical for Toyota due to the 2011 management crisis and the necessity to overcome the challenge posed by it. That is why managers must work on elaborating leadership traits and enhancing leadership style and communication skills to gain followers and inspire them to drive the growth of a company they work for and constantly develop.
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