Why Management is the new Leadership in Professional Services Firms

Why Management is the new Leadership in Professional Services Firms

We recently had a meeting with a medium sized law firm who were talking very openly about leadership in professional services firms and the challenge they had in obtaining the commitment of some of their senior associates in attending a Management Development programme. Unsurprisingly their Leadership programme was oversubscribed and had a significant waiting list.


This wasn’t really much of a surprise as we have seen this with other firms and across many other sectors. Leadership in professional services firms is WOW. Ambitious people are obviously attracted to Leadership as it appeals to ego, it’s mysterious (despite thousands of texts explaining just what it is and what leaders need to do!) and it is what many strive for (isn’t it what we all need to do to be successful and reach the top?)


On the other hand, management hasn’t got such a ‘sexy’ brand has it? It is often seen not as something to strive for but something we have to do to progress our careers. It requires focused effort, maybe a process, it can be hard work and it gets in the way of the real work we need to do.


In a straight popularity race Leadership is Mo Farah and Management is one of those poor stragglers who ends up getting lapped!


Yet a recent Harvard Business Review Article ‘Why do we undervalue competent management’ boldly claims that good management is absolutely crucial and is every bit as important as leadership. Firms with strong managerial processes and highly skilled managers perform significantly better on high level metrics including:


  • Productivity
  • Profitability
  • Growth
  • Longevity


The article is underpinned by the belief that ‘neither great Leadership nor brilliant strategy matters without operational excellence’.


And that is the absolute crux of the matter. Leadership in professional services firms is vital, clearly. It’s about setting the direction, bringing people together and empowering them to drive themselves and the business forward. But this cannot work effectively without great management, because management is about maximising individual and collective performance.


We refer to modern ‘managership’ as being the bus driver. Managers are sat at the front, taking responsibility and leading their team (the passengers on the bus). They need to know and understand the destination (the vision), the route (the strategy) and navigate the bus through the twists and turns along the way. They have to focus a lot of attention on the road ahead…


… whilst at the same time concentrating on the rear view mirror. Ensuring that the team is on board, they are sat in the right seats, they have everything they need to make the journey ‘comfortable’, that they are ‘paid-up’ passengers who want to be on board and only want to get off when the bus reaches its destination.


And here is the curve ball – the bus doesn’t have an engine. It operates on good old pedal power, with the passenger peddlers all performing effectively based on clarity of their personal peddle plans and targets and the learning, coaching and mentoring they receive from the bus driver along the way!


Now that sounds like a vital role to me. So surely it is time for management to come out of the shadow of leadership?


Refreshingly we are currently designing a partner programme for a progressive Accounting firm which is purely ‘internally’ facing and focused on maximising individual and team performance ensuring operational excellence (i.e. it’s about improving management effectiveness across the firm). Much as leadership development is important to the partner group, they want to ensure they carry out the first stage of their new strategy as effectively as possible and get the ‘bus’ fit and proper for future journeys.


So, how important is management in your business?


To find out more about theGrogroup management development and leadership programmes fill in an enquiry form or call us on 01892 610060.