Leadership Hybrid Theory: Dawn of the "Leadager"


It’s the 21st century and, being an ‘evolved species’, we’ve come to recognise the need for progressive adaptation in response to external stimuli and environmental conditions to maintain competitive advantage.

Civilised society has put comfortable distance between ‘natural selection’ and survival.

Creating the Corporate

From perpetual battles under empirical regimes to co-operative negotiation and global trading through ‘organisations,’ complex corporate structures emerged.

These monoliths aligned behind key strategic goals and objectives, their functions deliberate;

  • Contrived
  • Planned
  • Projected
  • Measured
  • Marketed
  • Invested in and on

Markets developed from parochial bazaars to global exchanges with the advent of an industrial revolution and mass production; standardisation and uniformity creating exponential growth for both businesses and markets.

The Birth of Management

In the transition from the battleground to the Board room emerged the “Manager,” bastion of the organisation and custodian of all resources, a individual in an elevated position whose responsibility was to co-ordinate efforts; create positive synergy and profit through supervision.

With the passing of time, ‘manager’ became a clichéd suffix to myriad job titles:

  • Process manager, R&D manager,Finance manager…
  • Facilities manager, Business development manager,General manage…
  • Production manager, Store manager, Brand manager…

…the list goes on…

If it’s a discernible function within an organisation – it needed a “manager” overseeing it even where that created oxymoron’s such as “creative manager” (is the creative process “managed” or “facilitated”?)

Management at Middle Age

Management became a ‘career aspiration’ but, unlike other professions, demonstrable ability through academic study and qualification or subjecting oneself to external scrutiny and assessment remains neither required nor revered.

Management became insular, an esoteric circle of superiors with notional power over their subordinates.

It developed meta-language.  It became scientific and transactional – demanding conformity to a single best way of doing something whilst rewarding compliance through a wage and ‘bit rate’ pay became the motivational tool.

The Rise of Leadership

But a peaceful revolution has been underway, usurping the “manager” and replacing them with the “leader”, a demi-mythical being whose omnipresence and omniscience; charisma and hypnotic oration of a utopian future captivates the mind where the manager can only command the body.

Today’s employees want an almost spiritual engagement with their employers.  Meaningful work is now the bedfellow of salary.

Subservience is no longer an intrinsic part of the psychological contract; respect is something people, and not positions, require to earn from their colleagues.

Offices have become open plan with nothing and no-one ‘off limits.’  Managers are subjected to ever greater scrutiny under the watchful gaze of their staff and are unable to hide behind closed doors and busy telephone extensions.

Traditional transactional management is being replaced with transformational traits in effective E.I.; NLP; coaching and mentoring.  Organisations are now expected to achieve employee engagement through devolved and dispersed power; greater autonomy for individuals and the alignment of personal and corporate values.

Interestingly, the revolution appears not to have had any affect on the bedrock of every organisation, ‘the bottom line’.  Investors still want a return on investment.

The Hybrid “Leadager”

It’s this dual track coupled with flatter, more open corporate structures that will mould the 21st century hybrid leader-manager, or what has been called a “Leadager.” This new professional is the skilled professional sitting on a continuum equidistant from traditional ‘managing’ and emergent ‘leading.’

It is the person responsible for synthesising the desires of the staff with the aspirations of the organisation; for sourcing and securing human and financial inputs and changing them into valuable outputs and outcomes.

The Perfect Blend

The hybrid will recognise and contextualise their actions and reactions as a result of a highly sensitive and evolved, situational radar that attunes responses psychoanalytically, leading to the kind of congruent behaviour that draws the trust; admiration and loyalty of their ‘colleagues’.

One eye on key performance metrics and management information, the other keenly trained on market fluctuations, emerging trends and opportunities, they remain cognisant of the agreed organisational mission their colleagues value.

The hybrid will need exceptional personal integrity; the ability to motivate and captivate, drawing many facets and disciplines together effortlessly.

Failure to keep up the highest standards will result in rejection from the group, hierarchical management being an anachronism replaced by consensual followership.

The Hybrid Road Ahead

They will be required to ‘communicate’ through emergent and emerging technologies as well as being able to hold court in more traditional settings, changing approach to match the preference of their audience, the spectrum ranging from 240 character updates to lengthy orations peppered with excited and inspiring vocal tones.

Recognising what it takes to motivate at an personal level, they’ll be coach and mentor to one; drill sergeant to another, providing the impetus that each member of the team requires, in the dose they need and when they need it.

The last great challenge facing this highly evolved person will be balancing collaborative; flat management structures with discretionary power whilst preventing “flash leadership” creating the kind of chemical combustion that will blow high performing teams apart instantaneously.

So what type of organizational “creature” are you? Are you a traditional manager? Are you an inspirational leader? Or are you perhaps a hybrid providing the best of both? What can you do to help provide more of these next-generational hybrid “leadagers” in your workplace? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Colin Millar is Operations Manager for the CRBS in Scotland
He is an Official Ambassador of the Chartered Management Institute and EFQM Business Excellence Practitioner & Assessor

Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Skype: colin_b_millar

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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Andrew Horder (@TheBusyFool) on August 9, 2011 at 5:58 am

    The “Leadager” concept has always been with us, at least since corporates started, they used to be called effective managers 😉
    I like the hybrid term for what is a hybrid role in the new flat organisation, so well done for that.
    I wonder if there’s another aspect of the term – age. Or to be more precise, gravitas – respect from the team – with most often comes from a certain level of experience, hence age. So is another meaning of the term Leadager, lead-ager (as in, teen-ager)?

  2. Colin Millar (@colin_millar) on August 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Hi Andrew, thanks for the feedback / comments.

    I did hope that the ‘hybrid’ term would get across the concepts behind the blog / theory. It does seem that the business lexicon, whilst dynamic most of the time, appears to be stunned into paralysis when it comes to what people that ‘lead’ and ‘manage’ do.

    Neither ‘leader’ nor ‘manager’ appears to do justice to the spectral role held by people in these positions.

    I’m interested in the ‘age’ dynamic also – it does appear that we’re preconditioned to give some kind of respect to people as a result of their age. I became a manager at the age of 26 and did find there was some resistence from older people (initially). Similarly, at the age of 28, I became Head of Criminal Records for a Scottish Police Force (the youngest ever) and, sitting on national steering groups, found a great deal of resistence from the older incumbents.

    On leaving the role for a promotion, one of my counterparts from another force stated “I love what you’ve done and you’ve achieved a lot…..I think you were just ahead of your time” in reflection to the resistence I experienced when trying to shape national rather than just local strategy.

    Was I ahead of my time? Or were they behind the time? And how much did my age in comparison to my peer group influence their opinions. What I will say is that my force became the highest performing force in Scotland in that specific area of work (having been the worst when I took it on), so I think the “evidence” is stacked in my favour, even if my ‘youth’ didn’t aid me in their eyes.

    A really good point, thanks very much for it.