What's More Important? C-Level Or Line Manager Leadership

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When we think of leadership, most of us automatically think of the "big" leaders, those people at the top of an organization that have become renowned for their leadership effectiveness. We tend to think of the Bill Gates', the Steve Jobs, or leaders of nations.

But could it be that it's not the people at the top of organizations that exert the most leadership influence, but in fact, those in the middle of the organization?

The Answer Is It Depends

C-Suite leaders and mid management leaders play different leadership roles, so the answer depends on what we are looking at. Leaders at the top of organizations ARE important because they set the tone for the organization at least if they are effective leaders. They create the climate in which their managers can exert their own leadership effects.

However, when it comes to who has the most influence on employees, CEO's, for example, have insufficient regular contact with employees to consistently and powerfully affect employee engagement, motivation levels, and what those employees do. That's because leadership "power" requires CONTACT, and the higher up in the organization a person is, the less contact that person will have with the people who do the actual work.

C-Suite level leadership is INDIRECT and distant.

Importance Of "Local" Leadership

I've seen it time and again, in a range of organizations. You probably have, too. You can have an organization where top leadership is weak and ineffective, but you'll often find pockets of excellence in individual departments that are succeeding because the departmental leader is top notch. You can also have the opposite; organizations that have excellent top leadership, and individual departments within that organization that are failing due to a lack of leadership in that specific department.

It makes sense. Who has the most influence, the person who is rarely seen by rank and file, and is known only through his or her decisions, or the person who is seen every day? Clearly it's the latter. It's important to understand that leadership is by and large, an interpersonal thing, that manifests itself through person to person contact.

Conclusion

Part of leadership effectiveness coming from the C-Suite lies in the ability to create effective leaders lower down in the hierarchy, by creating a climate that supports leadership development throughout the organization. The real power though, in terms of leveraging leadership and actually affecting what goes on each and every day, lies with the more "local" managers, because of their constant contacts with employees.

 


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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.

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