Skip to Content

Ready to lead? Then drop the detail

Zahir Irani - Brunel Business School

Dropping the detail and delivering the vision is vital to becoming a good leader and developing your career, according to Brunel’s Professor Zahir Irani.

In an opinion piece aimed at civil service workers, Prof Irani added that knowing the difference between being a manager and a leader is also essential to get the best out of a department.

“A fundamental problem for any organisation is the blurring between management and leadership. There’s a woolly sense of difference – of there being some kind of progression from being a manager to becoming a leader due to seniority, from serving time and moving through the grades,” said Prof Irani, dean of the College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences at Brunel University London.

“But management and leadership are entirely separate roles, demanding a different outlook, set of behaviours and way of working. Leadership is essentially a people business, where your core role is to direct, influence and guide so that people feel able and motivated to deliver the organisation’s vision. Your job is to invigorate, clarify and articulate that vision.”

Prof Irani added that leaders should be intuitive, radical and able to disrupt the norms of how things have ‘always been done’ in a department. Not every decision they make will be popular, he said, but they should give a sense of the wider picture and the direction in which an organisation is moving.

Prof Irani added: “Becoming and working as a leader, then, is not about being an increasingly senior and effective manager. There’s a jump involved. The age-old question of whether everyone is capable of making the leap, whether leaders are born or made, is not a very helpful one. In practical terms, it’s far better to agree that there is a leader in everybody that can be developed.

“Some people find the development easy, some need more help, while others will struggle, just like people would with learning to play golf or the piano.”

The full article is published in Civil Service World here.